Creating your visual aids

When Presenting, Show Don’t Tell

show don't tell‘Show don’t tell’ is a lesson often taught to fiction writers. Instead of telling the audience “Sally was cold”, the rule tells them to show it by saying “Sally shivered”. This makes storytelling more interesting, and helps to overcome the common boring technique (shown in my previous post) of pointing out the obvious: “Sally shivered because she was cold”.

The rule applies to presentations, especially in a business setting where you’re trying to persuade your audience of something. You could tell them, “Sales of this product are doing well”, or “this company’s values match ours”. But will they really believe you? Will they really care?

By showing the thing to be true with evidence and facts, you’ll be more believable and persuasive.

In a Typical Presentation

Most good presentations have one overriding message they are trying to communicate. I suggest you use the “show don’t tell” rule to get that message across in the following way:

  • Use your Introduction and Conclusion to tell: say what your message is.
  • Use the main body of your presentation to show: provide evidence supporting your message.
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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