Lucid Thoughts

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to

Inspiration not information – how to transform dull facts into engaging presentations

Sunday, 23 January 2011 16:48

I've just completed my first event project since reading the brilliant 'Presentationzen' by Garr Reynolds. It was a real inspiration and it has been of practical help. But his book was designed for someone who is preparing a presentation from scratch. The challenge I had was something else: one client was already trying to pull together a 'deck' from multiple presenters – an evolving and (as happens increasingly these days) last minute jumble of information from around the corporate ether. I never actually met anyone in the flesh until we were on site, the night before the first event which happened at 9.00 the following morning!

In these circumstances I think the primary aim of the communication designer is to find a 'line through' the information – a simple narrative that will capture the audience's imagination. I spent a lot of time on the phone suggesting cuts. We needed a story that the audience could rapidly absorb, not a mass of information that would sit heavily on them like a dead weight.

Next, I suggested that we take a strong visual approach. I was lucky as my client and I were of the same mind – cut all the illegible bullet points and confusing charts and replace them with just a few, well-chosen, emotive words, and better still, powerful images. For instance, we had a Formula 1 pit-stop team to bring to life the idea of teamwork. Simple but it works.

I was also lucky that the client team had already suggested a fun way of running the review section of the event. This can be particularly tedious as, by definition, it is backwards-looking and the thing people really want to learn about is the future! This version was based on a well-known TV quiz format with a team on stage trying to guess the answers to multiple-choice questions based on the highlights of last year. The entire audience also got involved because they were using electronic voting handsets. The answers were then reinforced with a few well-chosen words. It was fun but the facts sunk in a whole lot better than they would if they had listened to a conventional presentation.

We were also helped by the company's MD who was a natural communicator. At one point he had to deal with some difficult news. He used a visual metaphor which reflected the previous day's local weather – it had started with a thick fog, turned into brilliant sunshine and ended with a beautiful moon. That, he promised, would be the trajectory of the troubled project; at the moment we couldn't see a way forward but soon its future would become brilliantly clear and the result would be beautiful. I know it might sound a little cheesy here but it wasn't when he said it. And, as he told me afterwards, 'people remember that kind of thing.'

He was right. They do.

Making the message memorable (in Manila)
How to stop the cuts…to your event budget