Presentation with a Pointer

Monday, November 29th, 2010 0 comments

the-good-news-of-the-decadeSwedish Passion

It is a bumpy ride at the beginning, but after a few minutes it will become much more pleasurable.

When I watched Professor Hans Rosling, a renowned Swedish expert on global public health issues, my first reaction was that his presentation, The Good News of the Decade, was going to be a disaster.

He makes the classical mistake of narrating the text on the slide to the audience, and he uses a wooden pointer that is almost as tall as he is. Not only does he use it to point out information on the visuals because they are too small for the audience to understand for themselves (another typical mistake in presentations), but he also uses it as a crutch, and for a bit of parade ground drill practice!

Yet, his story takes a turn for the better; for two key reasons that I am passionate about when coaching presenters. The first is that he simplified his message, and thereby his passion for driving the health initiatives of the Millennium Goals came through in spades. And this is so infectious and engaging for the audience.

The second is the technique of directed attention. When he took complex information and simplified it through the use of continuous animation, he was able to deliver a compelling 15 minutes presentation.

Hans also introduces graphs in an exemplary manner. I would recommend this technique to everybody. The first rule is to explain the axes of the graph and what the audience is about to see. As he does this, you will notice that he steps into the slides and is caught in the beam of the projected image. Ideally this would have been prevented had the visuals be rear projection. Yet, when it’s not possible to have rear projection, it is more important to direct attention by stepping into the light than not to. Just don’t forget to step back out of it.

The research and data that went into this presentation was immensely important. I could argue that the visualisation of the data wasn’t ideal [it's pretty good! - Ed.], yet it was massively more relevant to the audience when it was simplified and visualised instead of as a series of tables and Excel spreadsheets.

The advice I would give to Professor Rosling is to lose the immense stick, and present without any pointer at all, as he did in California four years ago. And never lose that infectious passion, but somehow I believe that would be impossible for him to do. He’d make a wonderful horseracing commentator!

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