Dan Roam is the founder and president of Digital Roam Inc., a management-consulting firm that uses visual thinking to solve complex problems for clients, including Google, Boeing, eBay, Microsoft, Wall-Mart, and Wells Fargo. He's also the author of international bestseller The Back of the Napkin.
I invited Dan to Marketing Smarts to talk about his most recent book, Show and Tell: How Everyone Can Make Extraordinary Presentations, and explain why outlining your presentations might be an outdated approach.
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:
Great presenters cater to the visual mind (08:48): "It's estimated right now that probably somewhere between 40 and 45% of all brain activity—all of our higher-level brain activity—is focused around vision. More of our brain is dedicated to processing vision than any other thing that we do... I find it crazy that we spend so much time solely training the verbal mind. It is as if we are actively denying its existence."
Scale the three peaks of presentation doom: Fear, Boredom, and Confusion (20:29): "If we want to keep our audience captivated, telling a story is one of the very best ways to do it. Telling that story with lots of pictures...is an even better way to do it. And if we do that... we're pretty much going to banish any confusion from the room, because our pictures will make things clear, if we've done them well... If we've got confusion out of the way, complexity washes away and people are able to see things...and when people can see what we're talking about, they don't get bored and they don't run away. They start to have a good time. As they feel like a story is unfurling before their eyes, it's impossible for someone to get bored. It's impossible. Then they put away their iPhone, they put away their Android, they put away their laptop, and they really do pay attention. If we tell them the truth, tell them that truth with a story, and tell that story with pictures, our presentations will be extraordinary. People will change, and they won't be bored."
For a stellar presentation, follow NASA's protocol—and practice, practice, practice (26:27): "I actually borrowed this model from NASA, and NASA's really good at practicing things before they do them in real life, because if they don't, rocket ships are going to blow up. NASA has something they call the 'Plugs-Out Test Protocol,' and I use the same thing for a presentation. It involves three layers of practice. What you do is, we build our presentation. We put together our PowerPoint, our Keynote, or whatever it's going to be. Our Word document. Whatever. We do the work, the heavy lifting of putting it all together. We edit it. we cut it. Then, when we think it's kind of half ready to be a presentation, we go to a room that looks as close as possible to where we're actually going to be doing the real presentation.
"We don't fake it... We take the NASA style, which says I go into a room that looks exactly like where I'm going to give the presentation. I set up all the equipment as close as I possibly can to the way it's going to be during the real presentation. And then, as painful as it is...I go through the whole presentation, word for word, and ideally I've got someone in the room with me, being my pretend audience and taking notes and telling me...'boy this page suddenly doesn't work anymore,' or 'that story I was going to tell or that joke, whoa, that's actually terrible...' and I cut all that stuff out. So that's practice round number one, and that's the hardest thing to do...
"It's not hard because there's an audience in the room. It's hard because there's not. And our brain is saying 'I'm so good at this, I don't need to do this, I can just skip this.' Well, that would be exactly the same as NASA saying 'we built the rocket, we're pretty confident in the numbers: let's just launch it.' No."
Dan and I discussed much more, including how every presentation fits into one of just four frameworks, how quickly you can learn to be a more visual communicator, and where most presenters go wrong, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
This episode brought to you by:
Music credit: Noam Weinstein.
Dan Roam, founder and president of Digital Roam Inc., author of Show and Tell: How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations, and The Back of the Napkin.