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From the desk of Steve Lowell, Master Speaker and Mentor to those who speak in public.

Preparing For a Powerful Delivery

Please Donít Ever Do ThisÖ

Bob is a real estate lawyer, and a member of the same group as Katrina and me (from the article on Intermittent Incongruity).

A few weeks after Katrinaís presentation, it was Bobís turn to present.

Bob chose to use PowerPoint slides for his presentation, and on each slide were bullet points supporting his talk.

In addition to bullet points, Bob included a small cartoon on every slide. These cartoons were very amusing, and everyone laughed at each one. We were all very interested to see what clever and funny cartoon Bob had on his next slide.

Bob went through his presentation, and he managed to keep his focus on his material, never once commenting or referencing the cartoons on his slides, much like the way Katrina never commented or referenced the garment bag on the table until the end of her presentation. It was really an interesting process to watch Bob remain focused on his material, while the rest of us laughed at the cartoons on his slides.

Everyone highly enjoyed Bobís presentation, and when it was over, we all gave him tremendous words of praise and congratulated him on his entertaining approach. We did this quite sincerely, because Bobís presentation was truly entertaining and enjoyable.

A few days after Bobís presentation, I ran into someone else who had been part of Bobís audience. She commented on how much she had enjoyed Bobís presentation, and she said, ďI particularly liked the cartoon about the cat.Ē

I responded, ďYes, that was funny! Let me ask you this, do you recall what Bob was talking about during that slide?Ē

She had no clue, nor, In fact, did I! To this day, I canít recall one single point that Bob made in his presentation. I have no idea what Bobís presentation was about, and I canít recall a single message.

Bobís presentation was entertaining, and maybe that was his purpose. But as an audience member in that presentation, I still know nothing more about Bobís business than I did before he presented. In my judgment, even though all the information was there, that presentation did not fulfill its purpose.

In Chapter Two, we explored the concept of intermittent incongruity. This would be a good time to gauge if that concept was applied correctly by Bob.

Bob used a PowerPoint presentation in the traditional manner, filling page after page with bullet points. The difference was that he added a cartoon on each slide. Why did he do this? Was it because he felt his information might not have been interesting enough to hold our attention? Or maybe he felt that we, as an audience, just wouldnít care about his information. So, he likely added the cartoons to provide some entertainment value and something of interest.

After Bobís first few slides, my brain spotted a number of patterns:

        When Bob changed the slide, a new set of bullet points appeared.

        Each slide contained a cartoon.

        There was no correlation between the cartoons and the information on the slides.

        Each cartoon was funny.

        Each slide was boring.

John Medina explains that the brain will not pay attention to boring things. In addition, he states that the more attention the brain pays to a given stimulus, the more that information will be retained. So, how does this apply to Bobís presentation?

The bullet points on the slides were boring, so my brain paid no attention to them. The cartoons were funny, so my brain did pay attention to them. In the end, no attention was paid to the information in the presentation, because all the attention was paid to the cartoons. All I remember are the cartoons, and only one or two of those.

Bob may have been hoping that adding the cartoons (incongruities) would create interest in the information. In actual fact, the opposite happened. The bullet points were boring, but the cartoons were interesting, so the incongruity between the information and the cartoons caused an attention diversion from the presentation to the cartoons. And since the cartoons never proved to be relevant to the information, no attention was ever paid to the information, only the cartoons.

So, whatís the lesson? Donít put anything in your presentation thatís going to distract your audience, unless itís relevant to the presentation.

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