Sunday, 5 July 2009

Exciting Writing

‘Writing to inform and persuade’ is the knub of it; but who is to say what is good and what is bad?
Two presenters
I listened to two medical talks a couple of months ago. One followed all the rules: the slides were clear and memorable, forming a continuous story with a start, middle and end. The content was relevant to the audience; the talk ran to time.
The second stood between the delegates and dinner. It consisted of 40 slides for 20 minutes, each one another case study. Many of the slides were scans of handwritten notes and Word documents. With every slide, the presenter paused, looked at the slide, said “oh yes, now this is a very interesting one” and proceeded to spend 5 minutes describing it in detail. At 20 minutes I interrupted and asked the audience if they were prepared to delay dinner to listen to more. They were fascinated at this old man, talking about his life’s work in this rambling way, and many committed to check their own patients for the same symptoms. The younger doctor who gave the first presentation left in disgust.
My lesson
I wonder if we concentrate too much on form over function. PowerPoint slides “should be this”. Rules for doing a good presentation. Dressing for power. I don’t give talks unless I have something to say – content leads, followed closely by enthusiasm (if it doesn’t excite me, why should it excite anyone else?).
It makes me wonder how many times people try to whip up enthusiasm when they are only faking it. How many talks have no real content – they just fill a 20 minute, or 90 minute slot. How many times we say what we don’t mean.
Action steps
If you want people to buy more services from you, what’s the risk in saying so? Be clear: “this is what I’m enthusiastic about, this is the difference it can make to your work, now buy from me”. Audiences are cynical and suspect that’s what you are trying to say anyway, and telling them that they were right is surely one of the most sincere forms of flattery!
If you want to reignite that enthusiasm that people had when they joined, the passion for the work, aligned to your business objectives, that’s my specialist area. Talks, workshops, implementation; make it happen, make your organisation sing again.

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