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

The SPICE Formula of Sensational Speaking

Gist Before Details

In his powerful book, Brain Rules, John Medena explains how research shows that the human brain records and recalls the gist of an event, but doesn’t record and recall a lot of the details. This means an audience will not likely remember much of a presentation about the two-hundred-thirty-seven steps to a successful marketing campaign.

On the other hand, if the presentation listed “The Three Top Marketing Strategies that Always Work” (gist), and then went on to support each of the three points with some relevant data (details), the audience would be more likely to get the point. They would remember the gist even if they don’t recall all the details.

Here is a beautiful example of how simplifying the presentation can make all the difference in the world.

In the mid 1990’s, I was working for a man who has since become my long-time mentor and friend, Anil Agrawal. Anil also happens to be one of the most intelligent people I have ever known, and to this day he remains my close friend.

I remember sitting at Anil’s desk, across from him, with three information packets in front of me—a pink one, a blue one and a green one. Each of these packets contained the details of a different training program that we were selling at our company. My job was to learn the contents of the information packets and present these programs to clients.

The training programs were for people who were trying to break into the information technology business, and they were very complex and detailed training programs. Not having been in the information technology business myself, the concepts contained in these programs were well beyond my comprehension.

After a week of studying these information packets, I had many questions for Anil. As I proceeded to ask my questions, Anil was able to deduce that I didn’t really understand the programs at all.

Even after a full week of reading and studying, my understanding of the material contained in those information packets was weak, to say the least.

Anil took a piece of paper and a pen, and proceeded to draw a triangle. He then drew two horizontal lines cutting the triangle into three parts.

Holding up the pink information sheets, he explained that this course was for a group of people called “end users,” and he wrote “End Users” in the bottom section of the triangle. End users are the people who use computers every day and have knowledge of the application packages, but typically don’t require any technical knowledge or knowledge of networks.

Then, Anil held up the blue information sheets. As he wrote “Power Users” in the middle section of the triangle, he explained that this course was for people who are more advanced computer users, have some semi-technical functions to perform in their work and have basic understanding of networks.

Holding up the green papers, Anil then wrote “Technical Users” in the top section of the triangle. He explained that this course was for advanced computer users in highly technical positions. These are the people who design, install and administer networks at companies.

After an entire week of studying the material and coming out with little or no understanding of the material, Anil brought it all together for me in less than five minutes by simplifying it to a level that I could understand. He presented the gist of the material, which prepared me to then go on and understand the details.

During the next few years, I went on to use that same diagram in my presentations to hundreds of people while I was out promoting and marketing our courses. As a result of these presentations, we generated several million dollars in business.

So, what’s the lesson? Know that your audience is generally not interested in the fine details. Give them the big picture.

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