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