“Picture Book” Presenting


Research shows that when people listen to your speech or presentation, they are likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant or memorable image is paired with your words, people will retain approximately 65% of that same information three days later. 

Your powerpoint slide is not an image if it has more text than the Gettysburg Address. Reading text is a visual task, and needs to be processed by the brain. Each letter represents a symbol and the brain has to decode the symbol in order to make sense of the information. Letters become words. Words become sentences. Sentences become paragraphs. That’s a lot of decoding to comprehend from the back of a breakout room, ballroom or auditorium. 

In this context, it’s better to give a presentation without the slides at all, if they are just going to be your speaker notes on the screen. No one likes to read along with the presenter. They want to be inspired, surprised and taken on a journey. 

When my kids were young and not yet able to read well, they loved story time. Actually, my wife and I, while recently purging our basement, discovered where we spent most of our money in our early years as parents; children’s books. As I opened up the boxes and boxes of picture books and flipped through the pages, I remembered sitting with the kids on their beds at night, reading them the words, while they visually followed the story. Nostalgia for me, and a flood of tears for my wife. 

As I paged through the books, I wondered if all those years of “presenting” to my kids didn’t have an effect on my presentation style. My keynote and workshop presentations can run from 120 to 180  slides. I usually get a nervous laugh, and a look of panic, after I announce at the start of the session  that I will be sharing 180 slides with the audience. But, when my presentation starts to flow like an Instagram or Facebook feed, they relax and realize their brains don’t have to work so hard. All they have to do is look, listen, sometimes laugh, and learn. 

Do you have any children’s picture books lying around the house or in the basement? If not, the next time you are in a book store go into the children’s section and pick up one the classics like Goodnight Moon, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Stellaluna or Love You Forever. As you flip through, imagine the book without visuals. Not so fun or engaging. 

The next time you have to give a presentation to your team, boss, prospect, client, or industry, remember that you are not the only presenter to your audience that day. And, chances are, the presenter before you just exhausted your audience by making them try to read and listen at the same time. As you step into the room or hit the stage, your audience is looking for you to not make them work so hard.

So, for your next presentation or meeting that requires presentation speaker support, imagine that your audience can’t read very well. Imagine they can only be communicated to in visuals such as pictures, graphics and colorful charts and need you to provide the words verbally. How will that change the way you create your next presentation? How will that change the way you prepare? And, how will that change the energy in the room for you, and for them?

At the end of any of my sessions, I always send my presentation to the audience as a PDF. And, if I’ve done my job correctly, they will be able to look at my “Picture Book” and repeatedly connect the valuable learnings to the visuals, even without the words.

To present in this way, you must know your content backwards and forwards. But, that should be a given for anyone who wants to stand out from the crowd.

Stand For Your Brand,

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