Seeing The Wood Through The Trees

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 by Simon Morton

Regular readers will know that our (borderline pathological) obsession with presentations leads us to find inspiration in the oddest of places. In the past few months we’ve found help and inspiration for presenters on the Moon, behind the paint on a Picasso and on the side of the road.

Today’s inspiration is a little more accessible than a trip into space. Unless you are currently sitting in a windowless room in the very centre of a city there’s a good possibility that you can see a tree. If not, I’m almost 100% sure that you have, at some point in your life, seen a tree, so I shall press on.

There are, largely speaking, two types of trees, evergreen and deciduous and it’s the deciduous ones in particular that have got me thinking.

A well-established tree is, by and large, a sturdy, reliable kind of thing, and while it initially appears unmoving, it is actually in a constant cycle of change and adaptation.

At this time of the year deciduous trees are going through one of the most dramatic annual changes in nature. Their leaves are moving through a fantastic spectrum of colour before finally giving it all up as a bad job and falling gracefully onto the ground.

There’s a lot of complicated science going on here so please forgive my simplification. The leaves change colour because the tree takes back from them all the nutrients that they are producing and storing during the summer, this renders the leaves themselves useless and they are shed.

What’s left looks completely different, but leaves or no leaves the essential ‘treeness’ remains.

Great presentations should be planned, designed and updated in a very similar way, your key messages are the trunk and they create a solid base for everything that follows. So far so good, but it’s worth noting at this point that just a trunk does not a tree make (an attractive set of nesting occasional tables maybe, but not a tree.)

The next thing you need are stories, they act like the branches of the tree creating interest and providing a basis for further growth and adaptation.

Whatever happens from here on, if you have your messages and your stories sorted, you will always have a tree.

How your tree evolves should be up to your audience and understanding them can make all the difference to your success.

In the same way that different people find beauty in different stages of the annual cycle of change, different audiences will need to see and experience different things from your presentation. There are a thousand and one different types of audience but they largely fall into three distinct but not mutually exclusive categories:

Factual Audiences might be more than happy with the basic, essential tree, unadorned by buds, leaves or fruit.

Emotional Audiences could well respond better to an early spring version, with the captivating prospect of new life with unknown potential.

For Visionary Audiences you’ll need the whole kit and caboodle – leaves, blossom, fruit and colour in a time defying ‘all at once’ extravaganza.

Recognising and adapting to different types of audience can be quite a challenge at the beginning but as long as you take the time to identify and develop your key messages and stories you’ll always have a core presentation that you can rely on and adapt.

To find out more about how the Eyeful approach can help you make your presentations as reliable and adaptable as they need to be, simply take a look at The Presentation Lab book or pick up the phone and give us a call on +44 (0)1455 826 390

autumn

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