Show and Tell

"At any presentation, the audience is investing a part of their lives in us. Let’s give them a show."

- Show and Tell, page 255

Have you ever been in this position? You’re planning a presentation, you’ve opened up your PowerPoint program, you’re looking at that first blank slide, and now what?

Well, if you are looking for ways to capture your ideas, and communicate them to your audience so that they think “Wow!”, Show and Tell is the book for you. Dan Roam outlines, in a fun, creative and very doable way, the elements needed in the structure of an extraordinary presentation. This book is full of illustrations, and also packed with very usable information. He takes us through the “Three Rules of Presentations”, how to balance the information you present, the different structures of presentations, and making the most of visuals.

Although presenters always ought to strive to be engaging, and to tell a great story, knowing that there are different ways to tell different stories makes it easier. Depending on what you are trying to achieve, you’ll want to create a presentation style that will change the audience in the way you intend. Do you want to change the audience’s information? Then, that is what team status meetings, financial updates, quarterly reports and project overviews are for. Do you want to change the audience’s abilities? You do that with an academic paper, a how-to show or a class lecture. How about changing the audience’s actions? That is the role of a job interview, sales pitch or product launch. Creating presentations that might change an audience’s beliefs? These are the commencement address, the sermon or the TED Talk.

Knowing what you want your audience to experience, and taking them on that journey is no accident. It requires a well designed presentation.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Help others see what you see

"The best gift we can give ourselves is learning how to show and tell. The best gift we can give one another is an extraordinary presentation."
- Show and Tell, page 256

There are three simple rules to creating an extraordinary presentation:

  1. Tell the truth – Telling the truth in our presentations is to lead with the heart. It’s where we communicate our passion, our excitement, and it’s the foundation of engagement.
  2. Tell it with a story – Using the story to communicate our ideas makes the concepts clear, and the ideas more memorable.  A story is a way of structuring, and it includes the listener.
  3. Tell the story with pictures – Help the audience see what you mean by using pictures.  They can see what you see, and then some! Using pictures captures the imagination.  And that brings us back to engagement.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Lead with a story and understanding will follow

"After we’ve finished presenting, how do we want our audience to be different from when we started?"
- Show and Tell, page 40

This is the question that needs to be answered in order to pick the right storyline. Roam makes it easy. He outlines that each storyline has the same elements: main idea, main storyline, supporting ideas, one last hook. How these elements are presented, and how they support each other, makes for the difference in what we want our audience to hear. There are four different storylines:

  1. The Report presents data. This is intended to change the audience’s information.
  2. The Explanation shares knowledge. It tells the audience about something, or how to do something.
  3. The Pitch shares a problem as well as the solution. It’s persuasive. With the pitch, the objective is to change the audience’s actions.
  4. The Drama takes the audience on a journey. Changing the audience’s beliefs is the goal with the pitch.

Determining the right storyline suddenly makes crafting this presentation relatively straightforward. When you know that you are presenting a Report, you have no need to try to fit that into a Drama outline. That would feel like putting a square peg into a round hole!

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Lead with the eye and the mind will follow

"The ideal picture is as simple as a clear sentence. It enters our eye and tells a story. It doesn’t call much attention to itself."
- Show and Tell, page 233

According to Roam, “In order to illustrate any story, we need only six pictures.”

Use the appropriate pictures depending on the question/topic we are illustrating. If we are talking about…

    • Who/What? = Portrait. Shows our players and objects.
    • How much? = Chart. Shows how much there is.
    • Where? = Map. Shows where they are located and overlap.
    • When? = Timeline. Shows their sequence in time.
    • How? = Flowchart. Shows the chains of cause, effect, and influence.
    • Why? = Equation. Shows the moral of the story.

This makes it so easy! What are you trying to illustrate? Choose the appropriate picture. You then have options. Will it be a photo, a graphic or a drawing? Feel free to be creative. However, don’t miss this step. We’ve all heard it time and again. We know that too many words on a slide can be painful to look at. We’ve had to do it too many times! So, now you know what to do. What are you trying to illustrate? Choose the picture. Choose the type of picture. Illustrate your presentation.

I was pleasantly surprised by what I learned from this little book full of illustrations. It’s full of very applicable concepts, quite logically presented. Putting even a few of the ideas into practice will most certainly improve any presentation. Although the author spends little time on the skill of presenting in this book, he sets us up for success with the format for the presentation. And, I believe he’s right when he says “when we trust our idea and are confident, we will enjoy our time onstage and we will help our audience change.”

How about you? Thinking about an extraordinary presentation you’ve attended, what made it extraordinary?

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Hélène Egan

ABOUT Hélène Egan

I help professionals be great presenters so that they can get their message across, engage their audiences, and have fun doing it. As a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, I blend my one on one coaching practice with professional facilitation and teaching...
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