This is my first guest blog entry: Please welcome John Kluempers, Ph.D., aka @johnkluempers ! John is not only textATRIUM’s skillful leader in all matters smelling like scientific presentation – he is also my husband of whom I am still verrry convinced after 15 years. What I want to say is: He is really good. I mean, he is able to both live AND work with me!
This is what John says:
This week I attended a comedy workshop to find out what humor elements and techniques I could possibly integrate into my own presentations and seminars for budding scientists. I don’t know how much humor I’ll put into my workshops, but the comedy writer Mel Helitzer’s ‘THREES’ parameters (there are six of them in fact) got me thinking. They are as follows:
In any sketch, any joke, any routine, these six elements have to be present for the comedy to have its intended effect – namely, to be funny. Monty Python were the masters of ‘THREES,’ as can be seen in one of the first scenes from ‘Life of Brian.’ (In fact, any Monty Python scene fulfils the THREES criteria.)
ALL the elements that Helitzer preaches for comedy, certainly don’t work for a keynote speech, a PowerPoint presentation to your boss, or presenting the newest results from your research. Both hostility and exaggeration can greatly detract from your likeability and credibility. In a more formal setting where your profession (and not your stand-up prowess) is on the line, hostility and exaggeration should be left out, leaving us with this list.
We are conveniently left with the ‘TRES’ parameters: the basic ingredients for VERY good (hello, French community!) presentations.
These four remaining parameters can be split into two kinds: the rational variety (target, realism) and variety of feeling (emotion, surprise).
Let me start with the rational variety. How should we understand the target? Quite simply, every presentation must have a single, misunderstandable meaning, or what is known in the parlance as the take-home message. This could be finding a cure to a disease, developing a better logistics plan, or earning more money. And although the message can be quite rational to the point of being dry, it by no means must be devoid of feeling. Human nature is emotive.
Realism: This is obvious. The listener must be able to follow the presentation. She mustn’t think something is being withheld or is not achievable. If you have a gut feeling that what the speaker tells you doesn’t hold water, then it likely lacks realism. (Click here)
These first two parameters appeal to the left hemisphere of our brain. You know, the one we think with analytically. The one that likes facts. Data. Numbers.
However, if the rational model, like homo oeconomicus for example, was so foolproof, why do we experience economic bubble after economic bubble? Because far too often we don’t pay attention to the right cerebral hemisphere. This part of our brain is concerned about aesthetics and is in touch with our emotions. We see what others are doing and jump in, even if good ol’ common sense tells us we are making a mistake. We like something that is more expensive, but looks good (an Apple iPod. Click here for Steve Jobs’s introduction of the very first one. And be amazed how little thrilled us then). Even though we know quite well that a run of the mill copy would cost just a fraction and more or less do the same thing – play back music. Apple gadgets generate emotion. People feel good when they have one, so they buy it.
Presentations, like Apple products, generate emotion. Even if it is one of boredom. But other emotions, like happiness, excitement, even fear, keep us riveted. We want to hear the solution to a problem. We want to know about the cure to a disease. We want to find out what’s behind a door. Every speaker must be aware of feelings, and while not manipulating emotions, must bring emotion, at least their own enthusiasm, into a presentation.
Finally, it is surprises that keep your audience on the edge of their seats, activate their minds, and, if tied in correctly, help them remember your message better. Your listeners probably have certain expectations. You have something that contradicts these assumptions. Or maybe YOU had certain expectations and discovered just the opposite. Let your audience know this, particularly if they don’t possess deep knowledge over your subject.
By keeping these four parameters in mind – target, realism, emotion, and surprise – you’ll find your future presentations reach a higher level. You’ll be far more successful. Your audience will be more appreciative and not want to do this.