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....and many other thoughts about facilitation, coaching ( teams & individuals) and learning


  • David

‘Tell, then Show’ rather than ‘Show, then Tell’

Updated: Mar 5, 2022

I attended a lot of presentations on a regular basis. They include presentations by participants in my training class, product briefing by sales professionals, speeches in conferences, proposal presentations in business meeting, and so on…. There are good and not-so-good presentations. In the latter type, the presenters would mostly do the followings (yes, to my surprise, even some public speakers):

(after finishing one visual aid, most likely being a PPT slide….)

  1. They click to show the next visual aid;

  2. They then read the visual aid themselves, as a reminder (worse version – with their back now facing the audience)

  3. They then elaborate the visual aid (worse version – they just read out whatever on the PPT)

Better still, the presenters should:(after finishing one visual aid, most likely being a PPT slide….)

  1. They block the screen so that they get the audience’s attention on themselves;

  2. They talk about the next message, which may or may not be illustrated by the next visual aid;

  3. For those message with visual aid, they just talk it through;

  4. For those with the visual aid, they will show the visual aid after a brief outline about the message;

  5. They shut up for a while so that the audience can have a free mind to read a bit the slide first;

  6. They then elaborate the visual aid. If the slide content is not detailed, they even just block the screen to gain full attention.

How is the second method better than the first one?

First, you avoid burden the audience with too much information. Most people cannot read and listen at the same time. If they are forced to do so, they will get less than if they just listen or just read. This is especially the case in case of long meetings / conferences. People are tired.

Second, delivering the message without the visual aid raises your creditability. The audience would think ‘Hey, this guy knows the stuff. He does not need the slides to remind himself about the content.’ The worst is reading straight from the slide. The audience would think ‘I can read myself. Why do I have to be here at all?’

Third, people love watching a human being presenting rather than a slide. The second method guides the audience’s eyeball to focus on the presenters most of the time. The visual aid is just an aid. With this method, your eye contact and body language can work to a greater effect to help you deliver the message

Of course, there is a price to pay in order to present in the second way. You need to really know the content. More importantly, you need to memorize the flow of your presentation. Most presenters use the visual aid as the presentation note because they have not comprehended the presentation flow. (Realty here…. most do not have enough time to memorize and rehearse…) Well, surprise, surprise, surprise!! It is preparation again….

[I once thought to put this post as a Presentation Quick Fix. I decide not to at the end because I do not think it to be a quick fix by nature. Simply, it takes time for all of us to stop using the visual aid as the speaking note…..]

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