Fit Focus Flair

Starting well in a presentation- learn from Shakespeare

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Olivia Mitchell starts an interesting discussion on whether to begin your presentation with  the conclusion right up front.  It’s always a choice with risks attached.  Do you give the game away and risk people jumping to conclusions before they understand the ‘how and the why’? Or do you risk annoying the crowd by keeping them waiting for meat. I learned a lot from William Shakespeare, though I didn’t know him well.

The great british bard, (building on the Greek tradition of ‘chorus’ etc.) Uses the introduction, or prologue, in his plays to do a number of things.

1- quieten the crowd and get them hooked from the start

2- tell them what he wants them to do to get the most out of the play

3- tempt them with tasty morsels from the story…

‘if they ‘do with patient ears attend’ the ’2-hours traffic of our stage’. But he doesn’t give the plot away, just the core theme.

In Romeo and Juliet, he promises the (hungry, diseased, drunk, depressed and oppressed) people who would have been in his audience in the 1500′s, rich Italians (how exotic), hatred, sex (always a winner) , murder, suicide (a crime against God) and a happy ending (of sorts) in the first 45 seconds. Then he tells the audience to be patient, and promises them that all will be clear by the end.

It’s pure salesmanship. And half-way between giving the conclusion at the beginning, and leaving it ’til the end. And at the very bitter end he nails them with the epilogue. He commands them to go away and talk about what they’ve seen, and reminds them that they’ve never heard such a story before!

It’s brilliant, but you can only do it in real life if you’re confident that you have a strong story. But when you do, and you do it, it’s amazing the effect it has on even the most cynical, senior and jaded crowd.

It’s all shown brilliantly, as a commercial ‘trick’ in the film ‘Shakespeare in Love’, and if you’ve seen it, watch it again for that bit, and if you haven’t, buy it and watch it with open eyes and ears.

This is a part of my Fit, Focus & Flair model. To be great, a presentation must be a perfect FIT for the situation; the content must have complete FOCUS on it’s purpose and message; and it must have enough FLAIR to stand out on the day, and in our memories. Learn more about developing your Fit, Focus and Flair.

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey
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