This enormous outdoor ad has gone up at Sydney Airport - excuse the photo quality, Blackberry shots always look like they’ve been taken through a stocking mask.
I love the confidence of its claim: THOUSANDS OF MEN CAN’T BE WRONG.
Now, leaving aside the bogus nature of the product itself, you have to wonder: have they ever read a history book? Or watched the news? Or even met an actual man? My experience, as a man, is that we’re wrong quite a lot, though we’ll deny it. And when we get together in large groups, the scope for wrongness is really wide.
Bomb Pearl Harbor? Communism? Change the recipe of the world’s most popular cola? Sure, let’s go for it! We couldn’t all be wrong.
Lesson for presenters: if you only use one bullet point, make sure it’s not ridiculously untrue.
The Advanced Medical Institute, however, is a flag-bearer for one of the great modern trends - no matter what your problem, there’s a medical solution.
It’s a wonder it’s taken this long for a specific pill-based answer to everyone’s favorite phobia: public speaking.
The folks at ‘Deephaven Neutraceuticals’ have come up with Bravina (geddit?), a not-yet-evaluated-by-the-FDA blend of nine secret herbs and spices. There’s Motherwort, St John’s Wort, Valerian Root and a range of other ingredients with a strong whiff of Macbeth witch cauldron about them.
The web site has an interactive Do You Have Speech Anxiety? quiz that will tell you that yes, you do have speech anxiety, and yes, you need Bravina.
There is one interesting fact on the Bravina quiz: fear of public speaking is called glassophobia. I didn’t know that. I thought it was the fear of having your face shredded at 3am in a bad Irish-themed pub.
I’ve no idea whether Bravina works. If any nervous presenters have tried it, please let us know how you went.
The concern with the pill-based approach is if presenters use it as a substitute for old-fashioned methods like making the content more interesting. So we end up with happy, glassy-eyed presenters delivering mildly anaesthetized material.
So the presenter, in turn, acts as audience Xanax.
* Not verified by anyone other than the manufacturer.
“Our family is really enjoying Masterchef. But has anyone else noticed the increasing use of four-letter words? When people swear, it demonstrates their lack of intelligence and creativity in expressing emotion. Why not try out words such as ‘confound it’ or ‘flummox me’? Please Channel 10, rescue us from a new generation of Gordon Ramsays.”
What the flummox?
We’ve dealt with swearing before, and found it to be acceptable in modest doses even for Prime Ministers. And Stephen Fry says the ‘lack of intelligence and creativity’ argument is, well, bollocks.
But if you’re concerned your audience is full of prudish Nigels ready to take offence, here’s 10 genteel swear words, put in presentation context as a handy guide.
1. Egad, I left my laptop in the cab!
2. Great horny toads, we’ve run three hours over time!
3. Consarn it, these solutions are nowhere near enterprise class!
4. This minty cola has been a goshdarn long time in R&D.
5. Send those concepts back to research, you stinkin’ polecat!
6. What in tarnation happened to the pension fund?
7. Doggone it to heck, Kim Jong Il, are you testing missiles again?
8. ABC: Always Be Closing, you hornswogglin’ varmints!
9. Oh fiddlesticks, we have to merge with Fiat!
10. That question is out of line, you puck-socking goat-poker!
Prestigious Woodland Wallpaper: we can’t help you, try here.
Over here we try to deal with the topics too weird for other presentation blogs.
Looking at last month’s search words, I think we can safely say we’re making some progress helping people out with their unusual information needs.
Search phrases that landed people here in March include:
1. He doesn’t message you back *
2. Do you find Indians over promise but under-deliver **
3. Natalie gruzlewski farmer flirt
4. What are the two or three most important lessons you or any other young person might learn from the way this person lived natalie bassingthwaighte
5. Chicken deterrent
6. Ben Cousins tattoo what font
7. Dog presentation speeches
8. Motorhead brain damage
9. Inspirational dog names
10. Natalie bassingthwaighte meaning of her star tattoo
11. Prestigious woodland wallpaper
12. Wearing a beard in Sydney
13. How do chickens hear?
14. Death by sharks
15. Where Can U Buy Ice Pipe ***
Just looking at this list makes it all worthwhile. Very happy to be of service, everyone!
One of the things that bothers me about blogs is that lots of them just leech off other peoples’ work.
They’re the on-line version of lazy radio talkback jocks, who read out someone else’s newspaper article, then ask listeners “But what do you think? Call us now on 1-800-PLAGIARIZE…”
In blog world, there’s no greater source of borrowed inspiration than Seth Godin, marketing writer, entrepreneur and uber-blogger. People have made action figures of him. Entire blogs seem to exist for no other reason than to comment on Seth’s work and bathe in his reflected wisdom.
So I feel kinda guilty and hypocritical referring to a Godin post, but he’s done 3000 of them and this is the first time he’s specifically commented about AV crews.
He’s talking about how some businesses are staffed by people who take any opportunity to say ‘no’, while others are driven to find ways to say ‘yes’.
“The same thing happens with the tech crew before I give a speech. About 75% of the time, the lead tech guy (it always seems to be a guy) explains why it’s impossible. Impossible to use a Mac, impossible to use the kind of microphone I like, impossible to use my own clicker, etc. And then, the rest of the time, using the same technology, the producer asks, “how can I help make this work for us?” and everything is about yes, not no.”
If you’re having that kind of trouble yourself (and you’re in Australia), you should call Scene Change, an abundant source of yes-oriented technical people. And sometimes, the “lead tech guy” isn’t even a guy!
If you’re in the US, you should call President Obama and find out where he got his AV crew, who also say yes a lot.
Let’s imagine you’re up to your eyeballs in deadlines, as I am at present, and trying to concentrate on putting a complex presentation together.
You’ve told everyone around you that you are NOT TO BE SPOKEN TO.
Your phone rings. It’s a market researcher wanting ‘two minutes of your time to discuss your travel habits‘.
You could just abuse them and hang up. But market researchers are people too, just doing their job. You might end up being one yourself before this economic thing resolves itself. And deep down you’d like to think that you’re a kind person.
So here’s a handy and humane way to make them go away.
Researcher: It’ll take just two minutes of your time.
You: It would be a pleasure. But before we start, there’s something I should check.
Researcher: What’s that?
You: I work in advertising. Is there anything in your rule book about that?
Researcher: Let me have a look… (shuffling of paper) oh yes! It says here if you work in advertising, you aren’t allowed to participate in the survey.
You: That’s so often the case with these things.
Researcher: Thanks so much for your honesty!
You: No worries.
It never fails. Apparently people in advertising are too brand conscious and have hopelessly tainted brains. Putting our opinions into the rest of the data is like putting a rat into the champagne vats.
It works for all researchers, including the ones with clipboards in shopping malls.
So even if you’re an actuary, feel free to pull your imaginary black turtleneck and unleash your inner art director. Quick, painless, effective.
Everyone who’s been to a presentation training course can quote you the figures:
“55% of your message comes from visual cues. 38% comes from how you sound. And only 7% comes from the actual words you say. That means a mighty 93% of your message is non-verbal, so shine those shoes and look energized!”
The source of the figures is a 1971 study by UCLA Professor Albert Mehrabian. And it’s been widely misinterpreted ever since.
Actual Fact 1: It Doesn’t Always Apply
Mehrabian’s findings apply to situations where there’s conflict between what’s said and the non-verbal style used to deliver it. So when you say “great work - I love it!” through clenched teeth with rolling eyes, the words don’t mean much.
Which is just common sense. Your dog can interpret that.
The numbers don’t apply when your words and non-verbal behavior are in sync.
Actual Fact 2: The Study Wasn’t About Presentations
The research covered normal, one-to-one conversations. Though it does have relevance for presentations, no presentations were studied during Mehrabian’s research.
Lesson 1: “Scientific Studies Prove…” is still a magic prefix
Even though scientific studies have long been misquoted in the Sunday papers and perverted by corporate ‘research institutes’, people still like to believe. If they think facts have come from white-coated people with clipboards, they must be true. Which must be very frustrating for actual scientists.
Lesson 2: Odd numbers are more believable
Part of the plausibility of the Mehrabian figures is their exactness. If he’d said the percentages were 50/30/20%, everyone would just think they were figures he’d pulled out of his… clipboard. Keep this in mind next time you’re presenting numerical material.
All of this is not to say that non-verbal communication isn’t important. It is, and its impressions will linger on long after most of your words have been forgotten.
But these figures are often used to suggest that the words are unimportant, which takes a dangerously superficial approach to the important business of getting your message across.
After the last two posts referring to ancient TV shows, someone sent us this little gem from the days when they could get away with pretty much anything.
I could retro-justify some kind of link to the topic of presentations (the Rule of Three perhaps?) but now’s not the time for self-improvement. Just lie back, relax and enjoy the rich up-front flavor of Winston.
It’s too close to Christmas to provide any more tips on presentations, because presentation season is over for another year. Audiences have fled to the malls, to panic-buy small digital gadgets.
So we thought we’d gaze into the technical crystal ball and predict the hottest gadget trends for next year.
1. SatNav Cam
One of the genuinely frightening things about being on the road in 2008 is seeing people with SatNav units stuck right in front of the driver at eye level.
“Not my fault, officer, the pedestrian ran behind my SatNav screen.”
These people need a SatNav with a webcam on the back, displaying the obscured part of the road on the screen. So the whole unit becomes transparent, in a weird pixelly way. Alternatively, they could just MOVE THE THING TO WHERE IT’S MEANT TO SIT.
2. Recharger Room
By the end of 2009, home designers will start adding a separate room to house all the chargers for the family’s galaxy of small electronic things. Its floor-to-ceiling racks of power boards will be filled with fat black power adaptors, humming quietly, and an Amazonian tangle of leads. Most of them will go nowhere, because they belong to the phone you threw out two years ago, or the Nintendo that your kid lost last holidays, but you dare not throw out the plugs, “just in case“.
A battered, hollowed-out hardback copy of something clever by Proust or Sartre, so you can sit in cafes or trains looking thoughtful and intriguing when you’re actually Facebooking on the i-Phone hidden inside.
4. Facebook Door Bitch
Facebook friend list full of undesirables? It’s bound to happen if you’re a polite person who doesn’t want to offend new friends, even if you’re pretty sure you’ve never met them.
Taking a cue from the world of nightclubbing, new application Facebook DoorBitch (FBDB) takes the responsibility out of your hands. When someone unwanted asks to be your friend, the FBDB avatar pops up and tells them that they can’t come in because their shoes are wrong. Or because they don’t have a collar. No amount of pleading will get them past.
“Please let me into their page! I’m a friend of the owner!”
“Sure, that’s what everyone says. Now on your way or I’ll call security.”
5. Sitar Hero
Like this, only more Indian.
And you don’t have to strike poses because you’re sitting on a mat, looking blissful.
The Guitar Hero shots are from last week’s Scene Change Tasmania staff Xmas party. In case you were wondering how they relax after a year of setting up lots of complex technology - they like to set up even more complex technology, but with a vital extra element: beer.
Going surfing now, back next year. A big thank you to all the Friends of Scene Change, we appreciate everything.
Ian Whitworth believes passionately in the power of live communication, without the buzzwords and bullet points. He works as a creative director and principal of agency A Lizard Drinking. He is also one of the founders of audiovisual company Scene Change. Ian is an ex-professional presenter and long ago, ex-audiovisual technician. For non-presentation stuff, try @ianwhitworth.