Improbable Research and an (Almost) Impossible Brief

Thursday, September 18th, 2014 by Simon Morton

Later today the winners of the 2014 Ig Nobel prizes will be announced, for those of you not familiar with the Ig Nobel awards they are given every year in recognition of scientific endeavour that makes you laugh and then makes you think.

To give you an idea of the scope some previous winners include:

2013 – Biology and Astronomy – Dung Beetles Use The Milky Way For Orientation

2012 – Anatomy – Walking With Coffee: Why Does It Spill?

2011 – Literature – How To Procrastinate And Still Get Things Done

2010 – Peace – Swearing As A Response To Pain

All thought provoking (and often completely bamboozling) stuff, but that’s not what got me thinking.

Tonight’s award ceremony will be a food themed extravaganza that includes a mini opera entitled ‘What’s Eating You?’, not one, but two ‘Grand Paper Airplane Deluges’ and a selection of key note speakers delivering 24/7 lectures.

A little odd maybe but not too far removed from a thousand other award ceremonies, until you look a little deeper and find out exactly what a 24/7 lecture involves.

Fortunately for all involved, it’s not a lecture that lasts a whole week, in fact it’s quite the opposite.

Every speaker has to cover their subject in two parts – a complete technical description in twenty-four seconds and a clear summary that anyone can understand in seven words.

You might want to take more time than that to simply ponder how this can even be possible…

We’ve talked before about the KISS principle and we’re all in favour of clear, concise messaging. There have been more than a few occasions where we’ve helped people compress over 100 slides to less than 20 and created presentations that were all the better for it. But this (in keeping with the whole Ig Nobel vibe) is something quite different.

Before we dismiss the 24/7 notion as something almost as improbable as the research these awards promote, I think it’s worth digging a little deeper.

After all modern communication is becoming more and more sound bite orientated. When so much information is readily available at the tap of a keyboard, we’re keener than ever to get down to the important bits quickly.

A few years ago nobody had ever heard of an elevator pitch and it was standard practice to produce lengthy and detailed proposals, brochures and presentations. Times have changed and business communication has become all the better for it, but I’m pleased to report that I can’t see 24/7 coming to a boardroom near you anytime soon.

But the next time you settle down to consider a presentation it might be worth giving it a go, just to see whether you can, you might find the results quite surprising.

If it all seems a little too intimidating for you, our specialist presentation consultants are always on hand to help our customers define and refine their messaging to create presentations that get straight to the heart of their audiences thought and concerns.

IgnobleFor those of you panicking that your presentation might be a little too verbose it’s also worth remembering that you’re never going to have to present in the face of the Ig Nobles very own Miss Sweetie Poo, who, as can be seen above, takes to the stage when acceptance speeches run over their allotted one minute and repeats the phrase “please stop, I’m bored’ until they do.

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