Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Tell 'Em Strategy?

"Tell em what you are going to tell em, tell em, tell em what you told em" - this is standard (because reasonably sound) piece of advice normally given during courses on how to teach, do presentations, etc.

What's wrong with laying out everything for the participants, being consistent with what you said you would say, then repeating it all over again at the end so they remember well?

What's bad about all this, right? Quite a bit:

1. Tell 'em what you are going to tell 'em

What for? I mean, would you like to read a summary of the story before you get into the story? Would you like the Director to explain the structure of the movie before the show begins?

Suspense. Anticipation. Unpredictability. These, when manipulated well, are what make a great presentation great.

Do you really want to know the headings of all the sections from slide 1 onwards? Can't we be trusted with our ability to know what to do with the particular information/communication when we get to it?

Never tell the congregation or students or participants that you've "three points" to make. It's a waste of breath and the stage-setting doesn't help the mood.

2. Tell 'em

Of course we can't skip this part. Except I'd add: show 'em, sing it to 'em, get them to tell 'em themselves(!), or even DON'T tell 'em!

Also, for God's sake, tell them stuff they don't expect. Keep them on the ropes, one surprise after another - rock their states and make sure they never get the chance to believe they've heard (no, experienced) your presentation before.

3. Tell 'em what you told 'em

No no no. Get them to summarise what's just been presented. Get them to tell you more! Better yet, get them to compete to see who can do the final 'telling' in the most creative/coherent/content-rich way which i. summarizes what was presented and ii. expresses the participant(s)' unique perspectives of what's told.

Also, elicit tactics on how to use what's been told (this takes being told for granted, duh).


khin wee said...

Actually, i would disagree with you on your first point, Al. I do read a synopsis or a summary before deciding to watch a movie or read a book. It allows me to decide, firstly, if it interests me or turns me off and secondly, if I am keen to proceed, gives me a framework to follow a story, lest I lose my way or get distracted by details and lose the plot. Unlike a book, speeches and movies are painted on a canvas of time. It is not possible to revisit a missed part of a speech, unlike having the luxury of reading a written passage if you miss a point, so these landmarks along the way helps, as does the repetition.

Alwyn said...

My bad - poor analogy. Let me try again.

In the case of a book, you obviously can and should read a summary/synopsis prior to buying it. But in a class, you're *already* there. likewise, in the cinema, BEFORE the movie starts, would you like to be told the structure/content/plot, etc.? Certainly not.

The 'suspense' matters. of course, sure, there are many good presentations which lay out what's to come before proceeding - but this is the very issue at hand, how to use/wield suspense and unpredictability in an effective way.