Sunday, June 07, 2009

Synopsis: Presentation Zen (Stories and Stickiness)

Bad Powerpoint presentations consist of bullet-pointed recitations of facts. But audiences don't just want answers, they want meaning. So Presentation Zen (PZ) encourages you to tell the audience the story of your facts. (*)

* This reminds me, I need to re-read Elements of Persuasion, a book co-written by a Hollywood screenwriter about how to pitch movies.

The advantages of stories include:
  • they're more attention-grabbing and memorable than lists
  • they explain complicated ideas through examples and metaphors
  • they connect with audiences, especially when they are personal and authentic.
Make your presentation unforgettable

PZ uses ideas from 'Made to Stick' - a book which describes qualities that can make an idea or speech more memorable(**) - and applies them to presentations.

** One thing I've noticed is that PZ draws off many recently published books. It makes me wonder if this methodology has really been tested.

These principles are:
  • Simplicity: be ruthless in your efforts to reduce your message to its core
  • Unexpectedness: Suprise people. Ask questions. Open up gaps in their knowledge (and then fill those gaps)
  • Concreteness: use natural speech and real examples, instead of vague abstractions
  • Credibility: put statistics into terms people can visualise
  • Emotions: you need to make an audience feel. Images help.
As a presenter, you need to fight the "Curse of Knowledge", which is your inability to imagine what it's like to NOT have any background knowledge about your topic. The above principles are weapons that can be used to fight the curse of knowledge and create a story.

So next up I'm going to summarise PZ's process for giving your facts a logical structure and then finding their story.
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