Re: tech. (or any other) presentation skills

Subject: Re: tech. (or any other) presentation skills
From: Jack Shaw <jsh -at- SOFTWARE-AG -dot- DE>
Date: Thu, 12 Jan 1995 13:39:43 MEZ

Date: Thu, 12 Jan 1995 12:56:39 +0200
Message-Id: <95011212563832 -at- cps -dot- software-ag -dot- de>
From: jsh -at- cps -dot- software-ag -dot- de (Jack Shaw)
To: jsh -at- sundoc12 -dot- software-ag -dot- de
Subject: Re: technical (or any other) presentation skills

I never could remember much from those tech. presentation
classes, mainly because I was usually staring at the person
preparing the coffee break table, or peeking through the
half-opened door at the buffet being set up in the lobby...

But I did manage to salvage one three-part golden rule that
has helped me on the admittedly rare occasions when someone
makes the mistake of asking me to learn a few is:

- Tell them what you're going to tell them.
- Tell them
- Tell them what you've told them.

By the time I've done that, it's usually time to go, or I've
already worn out my welcome.

And then there was the habit I got way back from talking to
Uncle Ralph. Not being the most gregarious of people (probably
from a life of commisserating with cows...), I'd hit him
with the homey version of that pin-striped phrase, "Got a minute?"...
you know, the one that management uses to imply that they
don't mean to pull rank when in fact, they know that they are...

Anyway, U.R. would reply, "Sure, I got five seconds...tell me
all about it." Now, it took years before I saw the wisdom behind
that little comeback. Matter of fact, I read fleetingly (still
probably looking for the coffee break table...) a short while
back that the interest/attention curve drops markedly after
four to five seconds; that is, if you want to make a point,
do it in that time span.

Now, this was a neat rule for me, because those research types
assured that this not only applied to any medium (spoken, written
or visual) but was independent of the language. Now, this isn't
to say that you can't speak for more than five seconds, but only
that each point you make should be "makeable" in that time or less.

For example, you can pile one point on top of another, building
your case and/or the big picture or whatever, going on for a
good bit of time. But each "piece" of the picture/puzzle should
be graspable in five seconds.

Oh, sure, you can cheat once in a while--particularly when you've
gotten their attention. As long as you don't cheat too often.

So I liked that rule...mainly because I could remember it along
with the other three-part rule. Oh, and part of that research was
meant for typographically-purveyed info. as well. Line length
should not be longer than the average reader's eye can grasp as
a unit in five sec's., etc. A good rule for sentences (written
units of thought), too, if you can do it.

Oh, and one other point you might get out of these Confessions
of a Weak-Willed Listener: make sure the coffee wagon is set up
OUTSIDE of the room...not where or while you're talking. I might
just be there...

Jack Shaw
jsh -at- software-ag -dot- de

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