Category Archives: Extreme Presentation Method

Marijuana, Comedy and Presentation Skills

Audiences have become so distracted that keeping their attention has become more challenging than ever.

Hollywood comedy writers now find that to hold their audience’s attention they need to provide a new punch line or gag every fourteen seconds. A study by the institute of psychiatry in London found that participants who were interrupted with emails performed worse on IQ tests than participants who were under the influence of marijuana. (Abela 2013, p. 2)

Here are three things we can do:

  1. Only focus on a problem your audience has that you can help solve.
  2. Don’t have a presentation if everyone knows and agrees on the answer to a problem.  Send out an email with suggested next steps instead.
  3. If you have really interesting information that you want to share, but it doesn’t help the audience, put it in an appendix, on a shared drive or email it out before hand. Or just leave it out all together.

If we can focus only on the specific needs of the audience, then we are more likely to hold their attention.

Abela, AV 2013, Advanced presentations by design : creating communication that drives action, 2ndedn., Pfeiffer, San Francisco.

126 to 6? Don’t start with 126 in the first place – start with 1!

Here’s ten questions Andrew Abela suggests you ask yourself or others when preparing and designing your presentation to get you off on the right foot.

  1. Who are the most important members audience?  
  2. What you want your audience to think and do differently as a result of your presentation?
  3. What’s the most important problem that your audience has, and what’s your contribution towards a solution to it?
  4. Do you have a wide range of evidence?
  5. Are you supporting your evidence with well-structured anecdotes?
  6. Is every important new piece of information in your presentation sequence preceded by a Complication that creates the need for that information in your audience?
  7. Have you selected the best chart for communicating each data-supported point, and are you showing enough detail?
  8. Does the layout of each page reinforce the main message of that page?
  9. Have you identified all stakeholders that could affect the success of your recommendations, and do you have a plan for dealing with each?
  10. Do you know how you will measure the success of your presentation?

Abela, AV 2013, Advanced presentations by design : creating communication that drives action, 2nd edn, Pfeiffer, San Francisco. p152

Conference Room Style Example

Conference Room Style example.

In the above video we have worked up an example of a one page presentation handout. It’s important to note that it’s not possible to open up your software and start designing. You have to develop your strategy first, then design your presentation. Your strategy may take 30 minutes or 30 days, depending its importance and complexity.

The Three Ways the Brain Creates Meaning

I recently viewed an interesting TED presentation by Tom Wujec titled “The Three Ways the Brain Creates Meaning.  Wujec explains it like this:

We make meaning by seeing, by an act of visual interrogation. The lessons for us are three-fold. First, use images to clarify what we’re trying to communicate. Secondly make those images interactive so that we engage much more fully. And the third is to augment memory by creating a visual persistence. 

What does this mean for us in a presentation context?  In the Extreme Presentation Method program we design presentations using five essential elements: Logic, Rhetoric, Graphics, Metrics and Politics.  We then apply these five elements to one of two presentation idioms either the “Conference Room Style” or the “Ballroom Style”

I believe we can apply Wujec’s findings to the graphics element when working with the “Conference Room Style” idiom:

  1. Use images to clarify what we’re trying to communicate.

We can do this by designing each page so that the page layout itself reinforces the main message of the page. Sample layouts that achieve this can be found here.

  1. Make those images interactive so that we engage much more fully.

This is achieved by having all the information on one page and contained in or around an appropriate layout (see point 1) including charts. Most importantly this page is handed out, not projected. By doing this we can get the audience to absorb and adopt what we are presenting to them by allowing interactive discussion, which then gives them the opportunity to engage with our material and reflect on it.  Here’s an example.

  1. Augment memory by creating a visual persistence.

If you look at a well-lit scene and then close your eyes, you will notice that the image can still be sensed for some time after your eyes close.  This is visual persistence.  Under the Extreme Presentation Method we can determine whether the presentation will create visual persistence by applying the “Squint Test”.

Another way of applying these lessons is to think of a traditional painting, one that tells a story, such as Shearing the Rams, by Tom Roberts 1888.

Here Roberts depicts six men hunched over in a staggered pattern extending towards the back of a narrow sided room which belongs to a large shearing shed. By creating such a line, Roberts brings the viewer’s focus on the men’s positions, leaving the sheep secondary. Furthermore, he orientates the painting so that the viewer is directly in line with the shearers, practically hiding the sheep from view. But of even greater significance is the presence and position of the foreman to the right of the shearers. The foreman represents the shearing industry, which at the time imposed brutal and oppressive working conditions upon the shearers.

Hence in Roberts painting he uses images to clarify what he is trying to communicate – the struggle of the shearer not only with the rams but also against oppressive working conditions. He makes those images interactive so that we engage more fully through the different characters, their ages, their ranks and the painting’s location. And finally he creates a visual persistence through his artistry.

So the cognitive science research  as described by Wujec seems to confirm what our great classical artists have always known. That is, we need to use images to clarify our message, enable audience interaction and create a visual persistence.  This in turn further reinforces our knowledge that the Extreme Presentation Method provides the means by which this can be achieved in our business presentations.

Pitch: Step 2 What are you trying to achieve

In step 1, we looked at the audience and attempted to understand what was important to them and also how we can adapt our style to get a better connection.  It is worth noting that the planning phase is an iterartive process; we work back and forth through the steps as new information comes to hand.

Step 2 is about objective setting. This creates a framework around which we build our presentation.  It dictates what we need to do in the pitch. For example, if we say that we want the audience to believe that we are capable of delivering on our proposal, but they currently dont believe we have the skill, then we need to demonstrate in the pitch that we do.  Just to say we have a great team wont be sufficient.

The other benefit of setting an objective is that it keeps everyone on track.  If someone has a left field idea, then it is useful to refer back to the objective and ask how it will help the team meet the objective.

A useful model to use in setting an objective is the “from to think do” matrix (Abela 2008).  Here we simply ask, firstly, what is the audience currently thinking (attitude) and what do we want them to think and secondly, what are they curremtly doing (behaviour) and what do we want them to do.

The advantage of this matrix is that it gives us a metric to measure our success by. It also gives us a measure as to whether the objective is too big or too small.

fttd

 

Abela, AV 2008, Advanced presentations by design creating communication that drives action, San Franiso, Calif. : Pfeiffer, San Francisco, Calif.

Pitch: Step 1 Audience Analysis

After being clear on your topic, who you are presenting to (names and titles) and where the pitch is taking place, you are ready to dive into your audience analysis.

The fundamental purpose of Audience Analysis is to connect with each member of the audience so that they are more receptive to your your pitch.

Andew Abela (2008) gives us sound advice when thinking about our audience when he said that “if you routinely skip the step of thinking about the different personalities in the room, then there is a real risk that over time you will revert to accommodating only your own personality type and preferences.”

Given all the different possible combinations of styles and preferences that exist with an audience, there is probably a small probability that your style and preferences will match theirs. Therefore, it makes sense to adapt your pitch to the needs and interests and background of your audience (McMurray 2016). As a guide, this can be done by looking at the topics below. 

  1. Know your style and know the style of your audience. These include thinking about your:
    • Communication style, you can use any typology you like such as Myers Briggs,
    • Body language, such as posture, facial expression, gestures and voice,
    • Language, which includes vocabulary and
    • Dress, making it appropriate.
  2. Know what’s important to them individually including any views or opinions they have on what you are pitching.
  3. Build trust and credibility by reflecting back what you have heard or read in the brief for the pitch.
  4. Don’t assume anything. Check and double check.

Audience analysis can be tedious but it’s a confidence builder and will result in a more personalised and polished pitch.

The amount of time you spend on this step is reflective of the importance of the pitch.

Abela, AV 2008, Advanced presentations by design creating communication that drives action, San Franiso, Calif. : Pfeiffer, San Francisco, Calif.

McMurray, D 2016, 25. Audience Analysis, viewed <https://digitalcommons.kennesaw.edu/oertechcomm/25>.

The Three Ways the Brain Creates Meaning

I recently viewed an interesting TED presentation by Tom Wujec titled “The Three Ways the Brain Creates Meaning.”  Wujec has this to say:

We make meaning by seeing, by an act of visual interrogation. The lessons for us are three-fold. First, use images to clarify what we’re trying to communicate. Secondly make those images interactive so that we engage much more fully. And the third is to augment memory by creating a visual persistence. 

What does this mean for us in a presentation context?  In the Extreme Presentation method we design presentations using five essential elements: Logic, Rhetoric, Graphics, Metrics and Politics.  We then apply these five elements to one of two presentation idioms, Conference Room style or Ballroom Style.

I believe we can apply Wujec’s findings to the graphics element when working with the “Conference Room Style” idiom:

1.    Use images to clarify what we’re trying to communicate.

We can do this by designing each page so that the page layout itself reinforces the main message of the page. Sample layouts that achieve this can be found here.

2.    Make those images interactive so that we engage much more fully.

This is achieved by having all the information on one page and contained in or around an appropriate layout (see point 1) including charts. Most importantly this page is handed out, not projected. By doing this we can get the audience to absorb and adopt what we are presenting to them by allowing interactive discussion, which then gives them the opportunity to engage with our material and reflect on it.  Here’s an example.

3.    Augment memory by creating a visual persistence.

If you look at a well-lit scene and then close your eyes, you will notice that the image can still be sensed for some time after your eyes close.  This is visual persistence.  Under the Extreme Presentation Method we can determine whether the presentation will create visual persistence by applying the squint test.

6a00d8341bfd2e53ef0133f441f56b970b-800wiAnother way of applying these lessons is to think of a traditional painting, one that tells a story, such as “Shearing the Rams,” by Australian painter Tom Roberts, 1888.

Here Roberts depicts six men hunched over in a staggered pattern extending towards the back of a narrow sided room which belongs to a large shearing shed. By creating such a line, Roberts brings the viewer’s focus on the men’s positions, leaving the sheep secondary. Furthermore, he orientates the painting so that the viewer is directly in line with the shearers, practically hiding the sheep from view. But of even greater significance is the presence and position of the foreman to the right of the shearers. The foreman represents the shearing industry, which at the time imposed brutal and oppressive working conditions upon the shearers.

Hence in Roberts painting he uses images to clarify what he is trying to communicate – the struggle of the shearer not only with the rams but also against oppressive working conditions. He makes those images interactive so that we engage more fully through the different characters, their ages, their ranks and the painting’s location. And finally he creates a visual persistence through his artistry.

So the cognitive science research  as described by Wujec seems to confirm what our great classical artists have always known. That is, we need to use images to clarify our message, enable audience interaction and create a visual persistence.  This in turn further reinforces our confidence that the Extreme Presentation method provides the means by which this can be achieved in our business presentations.

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