Presenting Traditions (they're real)


It was the summer of 1987 and I had been sitting way back stretched out on the third row of a light blue wood paneled dodge minivan (were there even any other kinds back then?) for the past 3 hours. The car ride from Sacramento to Santa Cruz always seemed like an eternity back then. My game boy maaaaybe got 1 hour of battery life and my walkman was actually not my walkman, it was a shared device between my older sister and I, so you can imagine how that went. I spent most of the time staring out into the vast scenery, not because I cared what was out there but because I was trying to zone out from whatever was happening in the front half of the car.

I would always sit up a little straighter once we hit the 17 highway, one because I knew we were getting close, but second and more importantly I didn't want to get car sick going up that windy road. At the peak of the 17 you pop off into a small town called Scotts Valley and after you go through the entire town in about 3 minutes you turn off onto a small road that takes you deep into the forest. 2 miles back, you cross a small bridge and you have entered Mission Springs, we would start driving up the hill towards our old wood cabin that was built in the 50's, and about a quarter of the way up there was an old cathedral where my dad pulled over. He would tell my sister and I to get out and that we had to race him up the hill. At the top of the cathedral there was a trail in the woods that cut the distance towards our cabin by two thirds, my dad would say if you can get up the trail before the van, I'll drive you the rest of the way to the cabin, but if not your walking! We would sprint as fast as we could, going from a 3 hour car ride right into a full blown sprint may not be the best thing, but in those woods, with the fresh air and the knowledge that you had arrived, it felt like absolute freedom.

Flash forward 33 years, to this week. As I crossed the bridge to Mission Springs, the first thing my daughter (8) said was , "Dad, are we going to do the race again this year??" As I pulled over in front of the cathedral I replied, "Of course, its tradition!" As I have been spending the week with my kids, my sister's family and my parents I have been reminded of so many different traditions that we do, especially when we come to a place like Santa Cruz where I have been coming for the past 35 years. As I took time to reflect on presenting, my blog and decompressing from work while on my first vacation in a long while I realized that I actually have quite a few traditions that I do while getting ready to present that I rely on to help me have a great presentation. Here are 5 of them, there are definitely more, but these ones I try to do each time to ensure that my engagement is high and that the group I am speaking to walks away with a ton of fluency with the information!

#1 - WALK THE ROOM + MUSIC

One of the easiest ways to ensure your meeting goes well is to set the mood. Why leave the tempo, and energy of the room up to chance, why walk in cold? It is always beneficial to cruise around touching as many people as you can, yes physical touch! I know that is a foreign thought right now during covid, but at the end of the day, even if you are just walking around saying hi and meeting people that will be a step in the right direction. Secondly, always have music going. Music is a common bond between all of us, it can bring us together, no matter the generation, learning type, personality profile. Create playlists that have songs that will get your audience into the mood you wish to kick off the meeting with.

#2 - ICE-BREAKER

This is funny, because I cannot tell you how valuable this is, and also how many times this is skipped. For whatever reason people think they can just gloss over this and roll right into their content without sacrificing anything. Ice-breakers are the key to unlocking many aspects of a great presentation. They loosen up the audience, they create bonds with them them, and they are usually really FUN. once you settle back into your presentation, the entire energy of the room has shifted, and the audience is already on YOUR side rooting for you to do well. (check out my previous post on ice-breakers for ideas - https://www.lbbop.com/single-post/2016/05/21/TOUCHING-IS-GOOD)

#3 - PAINT THE PICTURE

It's important that you do not let your audience wonder too much about the day they are about to have. If they do they will make up all worts of things about how bad it might be, or what the content may be. I believe in taking that stress level down and painting the pictures so the audience can see the vision for the day, this allows me to craft that outlook instead of the narrative in their head. Also people are typically very willing to be led down a path of learning if they believe it will benefit them so make sure they understand that it will and what they will walk away from after going through your class, or presentation.

#4 - LEARNING STYLES

I've spent a lot of time on this before, so please check out previous posts if interested in hitting all learning styles: https://www.lbbop.com/single-post/2019/01/25/Soak-Your-Audience - Vid on this topic - https://youtu.be/pcJxlsYmBN0

At the end of the day we all learn differently and if you are creating a presentation you need to keep this into account. Most presenters fail on this one because they fall victim to the oldest presenting trap which is creating content that they themselves prefer. A great presenters sees beyond him/herself and understands that their content must hit everyone in the audience in order to really get through.

#5 - THE TAKE AWAY

This final tradition is crucial! When you are wrapping up a speech, presentation, meeting or class it is imperative that you have a take away. You want to ensure that your audience is not just going to walk out of that room and forget 90% of what you say. There are a ton of studies out there that shows how to attain fluency, or retention on materials taught. One thing they all have in common is that if some just hears material it's going to be low! If you want to really have the information sink in, you must tell them, show them, and then have them take action! That can be by teaching someone else, filling out a fun quiz, having a post meeting survey, creating a game or contest post get together, assigning buddies from the class to challenge one another, there are a million ways to do this but it is important to ensure that your great presentation doesn't just end the day you leave the room!

I know there are a ton more, so please leave them in the messages so i can add to the list!

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© 2016 by BRETT STEWART THORNTON