Your Presentation Is Not An M. Night Shyamalan Movie
Sometimes, we get a little too excited about the material we’re presenting. In those moments, when the sales data is good beyond all expectations, the research findings uncovered lots of opportunities for growth, or the team has come up with the perfect solution to a client’s problem, the impulse is to build the story for maximum dramatic impact and present our big, climactic TA-DAAA! at the end. This is what a writer might do in a novel or story.
The problem with this approach is that your audience isn’t reading—where they can flip back to earlier pages or chapters and take notes—they’re listening to get business done. Therefore, suspense is not a great technique. Starting with the details and building to your conclusion is not only emotionally unsatisfying for your listeners, it also risks losing their attention or confusing them. You’re asking them to keep the facts straight as you gradually make the connections for them.
Instead, right after your introduction, start with your key point—the big a-ha, the jewel in the crown. This way, not only will listeners be emotionally satisfied right away, they will be eager to hear how you reached that conclusion. The support points will flow from your key point in a logical and easy-to-follow fashion.
So for your next presentation, save the suspense and make understanding as easy as possible for your listeners.
Barbara Egel is an experienced trainer and presenter who has worked in a variety of fields from qualitative consumer research to children’s multimedia publishing. In each of her roles, Barbara has specialized in helping people get comfortable in situations that, at least at first, are uncomfortable. This includes helping fiction writers get comfortable with writing code, and enabling marketers and product developers to talk directly with their customers. Most recently, Barbara was Vice President at Primary Insights, Inc., a boutique qualitative research consultancy. At Turpin Communication, Barbara is a workshop coach and account manager and was the developmental editor of "The Orderly Conversation." She has degrees from the University of Illinois and Northwestern University.