Anthony Haynes writes: You’ve been looking forward to this session. The presenter has greeted the audience. Now you’re eager to learn from what they have to tell you.
What do they do next? They say, ‘First, I’ll just say a little bit about myself’. Or ‘Let me just tell you a little bit about who we are and what we do’.
And what do you do in response? You become a little bit less attentive. Hearing about the presenter isn’t really what you came here for. You came here to hear them talk about some topic or theme that you want to learn about.
To make matters worse, the ‘little bit’ typically turns out not to be so little. One sentence? No problem. two sentences? — well, OK, but don’t push it. But what’s this? The presenter has put up a slide with half a dozen bullet points and by the time they’ve worked through that they’ve actually told us rather a lot about themselves.
You surreptitiously — well, not very surreptitiously — start looking at your phone. And now they have a battle on their hands to regain your full attention.
What could they have done instead? They could have started to tell a story:
- ‘If I’d had a dollar for every time someone has assured me that graphene is a ‘wonder material’ I’d be rich.’
- ‘If there’s one thing this industry needs, it’s practical techniques to prevent over-runs’
Yup — tell me about it!
So, when you’re presenting, get into the story, from the start. Of course you’ll want at some point to tell the audience about yourself — but you can do that later, when it becomes relevant to the story. When, for example, you tell the story of your research group’s quest to develop graphene applications — or how you went about changing your organisation’s approach to project management.
If you integrate the ‘little bit’ about yourself into the narrative, it won’t even seem to be about yourself — it will just be a part of the plot that they’ve come here to listen to.