mind the gaps

When I work with people to enhance their presentations (and thus their results) inevitably once we build the thing and run it for the first time we are usually faced with gaps between concepts. Ideas without transitions, is another way of putting it. I’ve learned that it’s actually a part of the presentation development process – and one that’s too often experienced in an actual presentation in front of REAL LIVE PEOPLE. Here’s how it goes in my world.

Once we’ve built the presentation and (typically) the accompanying PowerPoint slides, I’ll get the presenter on his or her feet to talk through it.  He or she will sail easily through the introduction and then the wheels come off. Like all four of them at once. he or she will look at me with deer-in-the-headlight eyes, “I don’t know how to get to my next point.”  The same thing happens when we go from the first big idea to the second, or even to the first idea supporting the first big idea. It’s so common in the process that I now refer to it as a “stumble through” rather than a run through.

All of these stumbles are critical to the success of the finished product. Sometimes we realize the first big idea doesn’t even belong after the intro, it belongs after the second big idea. Every once in a while we take a big deep breath and admit that the first big idea doesn’t belong in this presentation! (I’m always glad when the client is the realizer for this one. Of course I’ll always tell them if something doesn’t belong, but it’s better when they tell discover it on their own.)

No matter what we discover, whether it’s a transition point or story, moral to the story, whether it’s moving things around or taking things out, the key is to do it BEFORE you actually give the presentation.  As laborious as it is for us to go through the presentation that first time and find and fix these gaps, it’s much better than the panic they would feel were they to fall through the gaps in front of a live (gulp) audience. When they do give the presentation, it is one that has been thoroughly edited,  perfected  for both visuals and narrative and practiced OUT LOUD. No gaps now. Just being heard.

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