Soak Your Audience

What do most presenters have in common with someone who has the Flu???

Answer - They are both THROWING UP all over the place!!

Most people who present tend to stuff as much content as possible into their presentations because they are excited about getting you the information. The problem is that in order to do that they often times speed through the presentation chucking out so much content along the way the audience ends up losing most of it.

When you present topics to a group and your goal is transference, how many main points should you be making? At what point is there too much content to digest? How can you pace yourself and make sure that the audience can actually handle the amount of topics you present.

The easy answer is just follow the 1-TO-20 rule!

I already know what you are thinking… “ugghh, another rule, another cheesy gimmick to follow, these things never work…” I get it, I feel the same way anytime I read or hear someone talking in “rules” or “steps” but honestly, this is not that. I came up with the title for the 1-TO-20 rule about 60 seconds ago while I was writing it so it is definitely not something you have to worry being too deep!

The concept however is very basic and although I just came up with the name, the actual process is something I have been doing for over a decade. Whenever I am presenting I try to stick to one major topic every twenty minutes, hence 1(topic) to 20 (minutes). When most people are putting together a presentation, class or speech they usually start with a large chunk of topics, data and concepts. This gets broken out into more digestible sizes and typically is placed into a PowerPoint. At that point a presenter will spend some time “prettying up the slides, maybe adding an intro, Ice-Breaker, and agenda and then calculate out how much time they have per slide. From all my experience and I am sure yours as well, most presentations built this way NEVER end on time, and at some point slides are either breezed through, skipped or glossed over.

The hardest part of a truly great presentation comes in the pruning phase. As a great presenter, you have to become hypersensitive to focusing only on the most important topics and letting the rest of the “noise” go. Editing is your best friend when it comes to the brainstorm and building part of a workshop, class, speech or meeting. My advice is simple, take your notes and apply the 1 to 20 matrix. For every hour you have to present, you must only focus on three topics at most.

To put it in basic terms, we need to maximize the 60 minutes we have with our audience. The best way to do this is to attain the highest level of retention to our topics. There are many theories on how to do this. Whether it is “Dale’s Cone of Learning” or the “Retention Wheel” both which focus on Lecture, reading, demonstration and teaching content to attain maximum transference.

Unfortunately, I tend to think these are a bit out of touch with reality. Teaching settings, learning environments, group structure, age, demographic, size, etc. can all have a drastic impact on any given day and so plugging your presentation into some systematic process seems to be a cliché way to think about building it. My personal structure is fluid, all I do is attempt to slow down, be intentional on my main three topics and be cognoscente of who is in the room. Once I have my three topics I map out how much explaining (the why) I will need to do and how much time I will need for the group to learn the content once finished. However, the one key I do when I am planning for this is to take in consideration that most audiences will be filled with all three types of dominant learning styles, Kinesthetic, Auditory and Visual. I follow a very simple mental checklist that looks like the following:

All I do is map out a way in which I am attaining some type of connection with each set of learners in each 20 minute block. You may be thinking…

A: that sounds like an over simplification of something that is hard to do

B: that sounds like it takes a lot of work

C: that sounds dumb, I already know what I am doing…leaving blog now

To answer A, it’s not an oversimplification, but to the point of B, it does take work. I have said from day one, I would be transparent in this blog especially because I am only writing it in hopes to help others in presenting just as I have had radical people in my life help me along the way. THERE IS NO SHORT CUT to great presentations. I am so confident that if you have a presentation that you break up into 3-20 minute chunks where you focus on only 3 main points and make attempts at reaching the main learning styles of the people in your audience, I will guarantee you won’t SUCK! I could lie and say you will be awesome but let’s be honest you might be new to public speaking and have a long way to go before you are crushing it, but I can tell you event the worst speakers when sticking to this format at the minimum do a decent job.

As to point C above, apparently if that was you, I don’t need to answer because you left the blog but if by some accident your eyes stumbled on down the page…good for you! Glad you know everything, “World’s Best Cup of Coffee! You did it!” Just joking, at the end of the day, everyone learns in different ways, and the beauty of the mind is that this one trick may unlock an easier way to present for some, and to others Ehhh, and that is all good.

REAL LIFE APPLICATION - I really get annoyed at any self-help book or video that tells me how to do something but then gives no examples…the Worst! So here is how you use the 1 to 20 rule in an easy practical way.

Every week Joe runs a 60-minute sales meeting for his team. He always builds a PowerPoint presentation where he includes sales data, business updates and some type of leadership skill or coaching. Unfortunately, Joe's meetings have become predicable, boring and there is not a lot of transference attained by the audience. Joe reads the blog on the 1 to 20 rule, gets overly excited, and actually decides he will break the cycle of lame meetings!

Action: Joe breaks up his topics into the three main sections, but first he notices one of the other blogs on Ice-Breakers on called “Touching is Good!” and realizes he never actually starts a meeting off in a different or engaging way. Per the advice of the blog, Joe decides that he will start the meeting by having a quick Ice-Breaker before diving into the meeting.

  • 10:00am – Ice-Breaker

  • He goes with one of my classics, that you can see me doing here live at a meeting in Austin Texas last year (props to Living Spaces in Texas who set up an entire showroom in a hotel for two months to train their teams to be ready to give their guests a great experience!)

  • This can be done in most setting and gets the blood pumping and crowd energy and laughter up.

  • 10:02am – Set the stage

  • In presentation, you must always paint the picture of what your audience is going to get. We do this because if you paint a beautiful picture, often times your audience with go with you and experience what you paint…if you don’t, people will make up their own painting of what the day will be like and you may not like what they dream up!

  • Joe Explains that he has been running boring meetings and feels he hasn’t been giving the team what they need! (Taking accountability in front of a group if sincere is a great way to kick off a meeting…builds true buy in) He then explains that from now on he will focus on three main take-aways each week that the team can take back to their departments to help them crush the week!

  • 10:05am – Topic #1 Sales Data

  • 10:25am – Topic #2 Business Update

  • 10:45am – Topic #3 Leadership Training

As you can see below, each section needs to represent the learning styles of the audience, so Joe now needs to plug in ways to accomplish this. I will show you how Joe made some notes in his tool to ensure he hit everything he needed to. Below you can see what it looks like with some notes in it:

Although this can be complicated, it can also be simple if you just brainstorm each element and then fill in the gaps. Joe created a mini learning event for each learning style to ensure his 3 topics would be understood, consumed and actually remembered. As you can see in the example, Joe hit each style for each topic. Going over sales data can be mind numbing and boring except for the one part in a meeting that is about your department. In this example, Joe has created a handout to go over all the top metrics. He handed them out to different people to read aloud before going on. This allows the auditory learners a chance to listen without having to be bombarded with slides and videos. It also puts edge on people who are reading, and allows the peers to praise one another for successes, which actually can feel even more rewarding than the boss! He then rolls into a game where he hands out sales data that has blanks and has a contest activity for who can fill it in and get as close to the actual numbers as possible. This activity will spike the interest of your kinesthetic learner. Afterwards, you hand out the real sheet with correct data that you visual learner can latch onto and keep for processing. Keep in mind this was all done in about 15 minutes, and that was just for a third of the meeting.

You have a choice when it comes to presenting, you can put in the time, effort and creativity to guarantee that your meeting will be successful or you can just keep doing the same old boring s*&% and get the same old boring results…you decide!

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