Presenting Memorable ideas

I hate Powerpoint. Why? Unless I attended the presentation there’s little value in the slides provided. Ironically, the talks that stand out the most for me are ones where I have no memory of the slides, but the amazing stories told during the presentation.

I can’t recall most lectures in University, though one in particular stands out. It was a course on Social Psychology and Sports. The theme of the class was to better understand group dynamics, and the impact of an individuals’ behavior when immersed in groups or even crowds.

When the professor attempted to share an experience with the class, he did so by example bringing in physical objects like gloves, pads, or other sporting equipment for student volunteers to don and in slow motion had them reenact the events from that day in sports history.

In a recent conversation with David Farkas he shared his belief that the design community needs to focus on become better at presenting. Yet with all of the data online about how to become a better presenter there’s little understanding of what motivates adults to learn.

There is a saying in India, “When a pickpocket meets a saint, all he sees are the pockets.” Our motives shape how we see the world; all attention is selective and what matters to us most is what we automatically scan for. Someone who is motivated to get results notices ways to do better, to be entrepreneurial, to innovate, or to find a competitive advantage.” Working with Emotional Intelligence. By Daniel Goleman

I began studying the work of adult learning theorist David A. Kolb back in 2001 in the creation of a Mcrosoft Certified Training program. He addresses four keys to engaging adults when delivering information / training effectively, including:

  • Adults need to know “why?” they are learning something.
  • Adults learn best when the topic is of immediate value.
  • Adults approach to learning involves problem solving.
  • Adults learn best through experiential learning.

Whether it’s training or giving presentations the core purpose is the same – to share ideas and experiences that will help others make wise choices in the future.

Yet how many presentations or training sessions have we all attended where the theoretical constructs fall short of helping us move our own thinking forward? As I’ve noted in the past, there’s a big difference between being a thought leader and having the capacity to lead other people to an agreed upon end state.

The same holds true when trying to facilitate understanding in others. It’s a different skill set. Having a wealth of knowledge in a specific area does not necessarily equate to an individuals’ capacity to facilitate understanding.

Keep your Powerpoint. Keep your mountain of statistics. Keep your theoretical constructs… but only if they address the key areas of how adults learn.

Your brand and name will only get you so far in any industry. Understand what is motivating others and then communicate your ideas to others’ passions…not your own.