Patterns of recognition are powerful presentation tools

Sep 09 2010 by Janet Howd Print This Article

The seemingly effortless ease of delivery that the best presenters, trainers, teachers and lecturers have when connecting with an audience only comes about because those informants care about their subject, work hard to uncover patterns common to it and the people in front of them, and adapt those patterns to fit the culture of each audience they address.

Well in advance of planning the actual delivery of their chosen topic these presenters will have put effort into finding out about the methods and cultural biases common to each individual group.

The term 'culture' in this instance does not refer to ethnicity, class, politics or education, but to the common ground that is known to exist between audience members attending the presentation.

Committed presenters find out about the jargon and images common to those they have to address because they know it gives them the best chance of affecting each listener's thinking.

By helping people with their noses to one particular grindstone to see how their way of working connects with that of colleagues focussed on another, they can give each person the chance to see how they fit into their organisation's bigger picture. This can also make the audience much more attentive to what is being said.

No matter how original an idea may be, if it is expressed in scrappy diagrams with vague figures or ill-chosen words with no clear focus, it will glance off even the most attentive listener.

Almost all of of us will have experienced hearing phone and pin numbers we know by heart being repeated in a different pattern from the one we are used to hearing. For a moment, this different pattern makes those familiar numbers incomprehensible. Similarly, able presenters aim to connect with the bulk of their audience by describing numbers and shaping formulae and graphs accurately in more ways than one.

Words, too, must be selected carefully if the ideas they convey are to reach and resonate in the minds of as many people as possible. Particularly because English - currently the language of choice for business meetings world wide - is so loaded with words that sound the same but have completely different meanings, such juxtapositions should be avoided.

For example, to suddenly plonk 'Googol' (meaning 10 to the hundredth - or 1 followed by one hundred zeros) into a presentation that has been dealing with Google search engine technology would throw everyone a googly!

Odd-ball references are fine if used as deliberate ploys to keep listeners on their toes, but when even the most astute and attentive native speakers of English loses the plot trying to work out disjunctive verbiage, what possible chance can people from different language backgrounds have of catching a presenter's drift.

The ideal presenter will always signal-up new ideas before directing them towards an audience and use the silence of pauses to frame new material or terminology

Patterns of recognition and clear frames of reference are strong connectors of speakers and listeners. They also connect thoughts imaginatively during the planning stage ensuring that clarity of information - the main aim of any worthwhile presentation Ė can be interestingly achieved, right from the start.

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About The Author

Janet Howd
Janet Howd

Janet Howd is a voice coach who works with corporate, academic, legal, theatrical and private clients in the UK, North America, Australia and Europe.