Presentation Effectiveness

Conversational Presentations Have Value



Delivering a one-on-one presentation over breakfast
There is no doubt that conversational presentations have value.

Let’s suppose you arrange a breakfast meeting with a colleague, client or boss. You’re presenting a new idea to the other person, with the goal of obtaining buy-in or approval. You finish breakfast, then devote fifteen or twenty minutes to business.

Would you be able to talk intelligently to the other person about the idea? Of course. Would you get buy-in? Maybe. Maybe not. A variety of factors could determine that. But let’s suppose you do.

How many slides did you need to explain your idea? You might draw a picture on a napkin or piece of paper, or show a single image on your tablet or phone, if needed, but you would simply carry on the conversation.

Let’s suppose you receive approval to proceed. Then, the person says: “I’d like you to talk to the rest of our group about this idea. There are implications across our organization that I’d like them to hear about.”

You learn that the group is comprised of about ten people at a similar level to your early morning partner. The group has a fairly similar perspective about the issue you’re going to present. You’ll get forty-five minutes on the agenda; you’ll have more time to speak to ten people than you did to one.

How many visuals will you use now?

If you’re like most, you’ll sit down at your favourite slideware program (PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, Google Slides, Haiku Deck), click your mouse and begin organizing your ideas.

But enough about you. Let’s talk about the audience.

Specifically, let’s talk about your breakfast partner and examine how he or she processes information to understand your idea. Does the way your breakfast partner receives your idea suddenly change from hearing it one-on-one, to when he or she is part of a small group listening to the same person talk about the same concept with the same expected outcome?

No, it doesn't. You change. But should you? Believe it or not, you shouldn't.

To be most effective at helping everyone understand,
the research is clear. You should carry on a similar conversation with the group that you did over breakfast. Give them information. Get to the point. Answer questions. Guide them to the conclusion.

I’ve seen this scenario play out when someone presents to a group with the anticipated outcome of getting a decision, such as budget approval. It may even occur when the decision is supposed to be a slam-dunk. The logic is boiled down to slides that are projected, printed, or both. The presenter believes the slides perfect, but the decision is tabled.

Later, the presenter has a ten-minute conversation with each decision-maker. At the next meeting, the decision is made without second thought. There are many people who now sell their ideas in advance. It’s a sound strategy, but time consuming.

Wouldn’t it be more productive to have one conversation with everyone and get a decision at the meeting? Of course it would.

But until we understand the value of turning presentations into conversations, and smaller conversations into larger ones, pre-selling the budget will be a good, albeit time-consuming, idea.


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Eric Bergman helps his clients shape their presentations strategically and tell their story effectively. If enhancing presentation success is important to you or your organization, contact Eric to learn more.

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Presentation Advice From Jack the Ripper's Walk

During a trip to London with my family, I had the pleasure of participating in what's known as a Jack the Ripper walk.

At a designated spot overlooking the Tower of London, we met our affable Cockney guide, Pete. He was a character, our Pete, and he would have looked out of place in most boardrooms, training rooms and classrooms.

But the communication skills he demonstrated were exceptional, and should be envied and emulated by anyone who has to prepare and deliver presentations to others. We can all learn from “our Pete.”

wall in london separating east from west
Pete used statistics sparingly
After he gathered his flock, he led us to our first stop—the remains of the old Roman wall that has traditionally divided London's east-enders from the rest of the city. "In 1888, half the children born on the east side of this wall didn't survive until their first birthday," Pete told us. "It was said that, for every 100 yards you traveled east, life expectancy dropped by a year."

I’ve often said that statistics should be to presentations as spice is to a meal—used sparingly.

Pete told stories well
To illustrate his love of history, he told us a story of traveling to Hadrian's Wall as a school boy. (Hadrian's Wall is the roman wall that has traditionally separated England from Scotland.)

It was not a pleasant field trip, Pete informed us. It was raining. It was cold. He was miserable.

He was walking along the wall when he came to some Latin graffiti scratched into its side. He got out a piece of paper and his pencil, and rubbed the inscription so he could bring it to his Latin teacher.

When the Latin teacher read the inscription, he smiled. "You didn't enjoy yourself at Hadrian's Wall, did you," the teacher said. "No, sir," Pete replied.

"Apparently a man named Devinius wasn't enjoying himself either."

Pete clearly stated outcomes up front
Within a minute or two of gathering us together, Pete told us he hoped we would gain two two things. First, he wanted us to learn more about life in late 19-century London, the city of his birth. Second, he wanted us to better understand why he’s so proud to call London his home.

We gained both, in spades.

Pete knew that pausing is important for him and us
Pete paused to think before speaking. This enabled him to choose his words carefully so that each word out of his mouth added value.

Pete paused after he spoke. This allowed us to think about what he’d just said. He allowed us to process one thought before giving us another. He didn’t try to overload us with information. The entire presentation was two-way and receiver-driven, while adhering to the principle of “less is more.”

Pete used visuals sparingly, and well
When he brought us to a new location, he would introduce it and give us time to look at it. “This is not where one of the murders happened,” he told us in one case. “But if we went there now, you’d all be disappointed because it’s a parking lot. This is what London would have looked like in Jack’s time.”

He would pause to allow us to look around and let our imaginations work. When we started coming back to him, he continued his presentation.

He showed half a dozen pictures from his smartphone for emphasis. But again, he would tell us what we were going to see, then showed it. When he showed the picture, he moved the phone from person to person around the group, letting us absorb it. During those times, he never said a word.

Pete answered questions clearly and concisely
While he was always polite, he thankfully kept his answers short. This enabled many of us to ask a lot of questions. We learned from each other’s curiosity, which only added to the educational experience for everyone.

Pete demonstrated excellent presentation and communication skills. He provided lessons of value that could be applied to every boardroom, training room, meeting room, conference hall and lecture hall on the planet.

So, if you’re ever in London, look up our Pete and join him on his walk.

For the price of a movie ticket and pop, you’ll gain insight into parts of London that most people don’t see. You’ll begin to share Pete’s love for his city.

And, if you watch Pete at work, you’ll gain insight into communicating effectively with others during all types of presentations from one of the most unlikely but effective of sources.