Why & How Extreme Presentation Works

My friend, Professor Andrew Abela at Catholic University recently published The Presentation: A Story About Communicating Successfully With Very Few Slides,  which provides a case study example of executing the Extreme Presentation methods he details in his first book, Advanced Presentations Design: Creating Communication That Drives Action. His one-day workshop in 2006 was the best I’ve ever attended at a SCIP annual conference, so in the spirit of cooperative intelligence here are some highlights.

Have you ever heard anyone say, “That was a great presentation: could you have used more slides?” Of course not! Most people use slides to help themselves remember the material they are presenting, but they are not usually created to help you the audience understand the material or be convinced of what the presenter might be selling. This is a blind spot of many presenters and missed opportunity to sell an idea, close the sale or persuade someone or a group to take action! All these slides do is put most viewers into the passive viewing mode, which isn’t usually what you want!

The book focuses on Conference Room style presentation–that is the art of presenting persuasively to small groups. The objective of this venue is often to persuade a small group or a key individual to do or to agree to a specific thing.

To get started think, “What do you want your audience to do as a result of what you’ll be presenting to them?” Next: “Where is your audience right now?” So: “What evidence do you need to provide to your audience to get them to where you want them to be? This is the core of why Extreme Presentation works. You know at the outset where you want this presentation to end: what decision you want your audience to make. You present to your audience using persuasive, calculated steps to get to your endpoint.

Clearly identify what problem your audience has that your presentation will help solve. Research tells us that storytelling works since it’s causal information, not just mere facts, that makes your story more credible. Provide a compelling story about how this problem has been solved or can be solved. Find one or two stories to drive home your most important points.

Here is an example of how Extreme Presentation works with small audiences:

Situation: Most presentations don’t convince the audience and aren’t actionable

Complications: The presentation is agenda oriented, not objective oriented. There are too many slides which don’t encourage audience participation or engagement.

Resolution: 1 – 2 pages tell your story as a handout using your audience’s language + visual process “squint test”. Research shows that people need the right amount of detail and no distractions (no clip art) to promote the healthy discussion that is required to make decisions.

Example: This format encourages your audience to listen, absorb and engage, and leads them to make a decision, which is what you want! This method has been pilot tested extensively for at least 5 years by some big name companies such as ExxonMobil, Kimberly-Clark, Microsoft, eBay, Motorola, Xerox, WW Grainger and HJ Heinz to name a few!

The “squint test” initially confuses people, but it’s valuable for you to give the audience a shape which indicates the content of what you’ll cover such as a bar chart, process chart, organization chart, since you provide a handouts. Here are some templates to help you pass the squint test:

Extreme Presentation website www.ExtremePresentation.com/books/pres; SmartArt in PowerPoint and PowerFrameworks www.powerframeworks.com for thousands of templates.

I always like an example of what people are trying to communicate: below is the link to a 1 page handout which visually depicts what I just wrote about. I applaud Dr. Abela! The only thing I would have done differently is rename “extreme presentation”, “persuasive presentation,” since that’s really what it is: PERSUASIVE communication!

Persuasive Presentation Works

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2 thoughts on “Why & How Extreme Presentation Works”

  1. Hi Ellen,

    I agree with this to a point. Many people use PowerPoint as a crutch. (The vogue in my company is to refer to it as “PoorPoint”.) Many do not know how to use it well, or at all. This Extreme Presentation technique works well on some topics. However, having taught presentation skills before, and taken such classes myself, most people are just not skilled enough to do things this way without significant intervention. And I guess this creates openings for people who can teach such things. ;-{)>


  2. I think Extreme Presentation works best in small groups for persuasive messages. However, if you are attempting to explain something that is complex, I don’t think it works as well there, since you might need more slides to show and illustrate how something works.

    The most important thing is to know enough about your audience to pick the best presentation style and content each time.

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