You’re busy, I’m busy. So I keep these blogs to five pithy paragraphs — all based on an idea nicked from my many years working in a TV newsroom.
Picture a Sunday roast without gravy, or a pile of plain pasta. It’s an image I keep in my head when I’m putting together news reports on subjects that are really important, but a bit boring. And I think it’s a useful image to keep in your head if you’re planning to deliver a presentation.
My secret is to remember to add the sauce. In news reporting, the facts and figures of any news story are the potatoes/veg/pasta. The sauce? That’s the case study that brings the whole thing to life. Take a boring story about health policy reform. It’s not so boring when you hear about the child caught up in it all. And this sauce rule applies to presentations just as much. Here’s an example from a conference I was recently invited to host on the General Data Privacy Regulations (GDPR). They’re the rules that are keeping business people awake at night ahead of their introduction in May. And yes, those rules are potentially rather boring.
But the event wasn’t boring at all. It had been elegantly put together by Pragmatic, a Brighton based company that’s proud to call itself the leading specialist wordpress agency in the UK — as producers of websites, they can claim to be the Go-To people for an overview of what the big issues are. What became clear during the afternoon seminar that sunny September afternoon was that they know what works, and what doesn’t.
The audience was attentive throughout, but the moments when people really sat up, it seemed to me, were the many moments when the sauce — the case-studies — were added. There was the Horror Story (google “Dido Harding — TalkTalk” for that one.) There was the Cautionary Tale (Uber’s recent tangle with the US’s Federal Trade Commission.) And to encourage us all, the Heartwarming Tale (how Comic Relief came up with a clever way to make data collection reasonable.) Each example made the issue make sense, and actually matter, to me. A potentially indigestible topic became almost mouth-watering.
I consider these sweet and sour stories to be the sauce in any presentation. Of course, whether you’re a journalist or a web-designer, you need the potatoes and pasta of facts and figures, graphs and charts — but if you forget to spice it up with real examples, you’re offering very stodgy fare indeed. Thankfully, Pragmatic knew that the secret was in the sauce.
If you’d like me to MC one of your events, give me a call. Or if you’re planning an activity ahead of the Christmas party this year, and want something that’s fun as well as thought-provoking, how about my Newsroom Bootcamp for Business?
Pic of lovely Pasta Neapolitan from thespruce.com