In mid June, my husband received a phone call from the 6th grade teacher at our daughter’s school. “Shinkai san, do you think your wife would be able to make a presentation about england to the 5th and 6th graders on the day before the summer holidays? With the Rio Olympics coming up, the last Olympics being held in London, the next Olympics being in Tokyo, we thought it might be interesting for them to hear from her…”
As a cross-cultural communication and diversity and inclusion consultant, I’m always happy to have an opportunity to raise awareness of other perspectives. I ignored the fact that the request went to my husband and not to me directly (language worries? indirect approach to prevent losing face? sexism? – a post for another time!), and said “Yes”.
Start with the end in mind
Reynolds asks you to focus on message. What is the goal of your presentation? What is the big idea you are selling?
The killer question you need to answer is:
If your audience could remember only three things about your presentation what would you want it to be?
In this case, I wanted them to remember:
- To be open minded – there is not one way of doing things in the world.
- Igirisu (イギリス）is not just England.
- To cheer on team GB.
Know your audience as much as possible
Reynolds ask you to focus on basic “W questions” when preparing for a presentation
Who is the audience? What is the purpose of the event?
Why were you asked to speak? Where is it? When is it?
Most of these kids have never travelled overseas, some have never spoken to a non-Japanese person apart from an English language teacher. It was important that I was approachable, friendly and interesting.
With the presentation being held on the day before the summer holidays, this audience was probably a little distracted about the prospect of six weeks of freedom! How would I keep the engaged.
Using this audience knowledge, I used the following approach
- Made all the content about school life, it was easy for them to grasp the concepts.
- Included the experience of their schoolmate, my daughter, in the presentation to make it feel more tangible.
- Brought real money for them to hold and made them move about in the quiz. Active experience and brought the kinesthetic learners into the mix too.
Planning in analogue
This was a real game changer for me. I was able to cut out a lot of fluff. Working with post it notes really helped me to distill the content to the most useful parts.
Reynolds points out that when we work in a presentation software we make our story fit the template and it limits our thinking and creativity. Being forced to follow a cookie cutter approach makes us deliver cookie cutter presentations.
Limit bullet points and text
I’ve been subjected to some terrible, text-heavy slide decks recently so I took Reynolds advice on board happily.
Almost no text at all, just full-bleed, high-resolution images. This really helped when it came to delivery. We had no projector for the first 15 minutes!
At all times: courteous, gracious, & professional
When your icebreaker requires pencil crayons and paper and you realise that the students are empty handed…it’s time for a visualisation exercise.
When no one knows how to connect the projector for the first ten minutes…it’s time for an engaging run around the audience with your laptop in your hands.
When you realise that there is too much furniture for your interactive quiz to work…keep the quiz but change your approach
As Reynolds says, “The true professional can always remain cool and in control.”
I received individual handwritten thank you letters from the students. From the feedback I can see how well the Presentation Zen approach worked in practice.
Comments about their jealousy of no school on Saturday, surprise over the way that lunch is served and that there are no walking groups showed that the audience realised there were different ways of doing things around the world.
Students repeated the facts we discussed and said “I did not know anything about the UK before your presentation. Now I know more, I would really like to go there”.
And as for team GB…they just got 60 new supporters! My favourite comment was “I will cheer on team GB in the Olympics. But if Japan and Team GB are competing with each other, sorry, I’m going to have to cheer on Japan”. Love the honesty!
If you haven’t read Presentation Zen yet, head over to Amazon asap
What other resources do you recommend for presentation skills?
Please leave your ideas in the comments below!