Presentation Content

(Don't) Stuff the audience like a goose

Do you know how pate de foie gras is made? Here’s a short outline that gives us all we need to know.

“Foie gras is made from the enlarged livers of male ducks and geese. Birds have up to 2 pounds of food per day pumped into their stomachs through long metal pipes that are shoved down their throats. The cruel ordeal often causes severe injuries that make it painful or even impossible for birds to drink. Those who survive the feedings suffer from a painful illness that causes their livers to swell to eight to 10 times their normal size. Many birds become too sick to walk and are reduced to pushing themselves across their cages with their wings. When the birds are slaughtered, their livers are sold for foie gras. “
People Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Website

Most presenters treat their audiences as if they were those poor little geese. They stuff their captive public full of facts and figures and details that often have only a passing relevance to the point of the presentation. Achieving clear and real focus is probably the most difficult part of preparing a presentation.

So what’s wrong with detail?
There’s nothing wrong with detail. Detail is often the difference between really understanding a subject and having only a flimsy veneer of comprehension. What’s important is who is the detail for.

If you give a detailed answer to questions that come directly from your audience, then that’s fine. That’s exactly what you should be doing. But if the detail is in there because you’re making assumptions about the audiences wants & needs, then you’re adding unnecessarily to the length and complexity of the talk, and probably undermining the clarity and impact of the whole message.

There is much data and research from psychologists that might help show you a little more reason why detail doesn’t work.  Here’s some…

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