You are not your presentation – Part II

I received this email the other day from a participant in one of last week’s workshops. I think it provides an insightful perspective on the question of who should be at the center of your presentation.

Dear Andrew,
I sincerely thank you for coming down to Madison to conduct the one day Extreme Presentation Workshop. Your presentation was not only fantastic and so actionable, but also reinforced the adage, ‘Common sense is not that common.’ I was totally shocked and surprised when you advocated not to project Powerpoint slides for conference style presentations. For a moment, I really couldn’t appreciate any logic or sanity in your statement. I had been in academic environments and have also worked in the professional world and when the entire world uses or (should I now say) abuses Powerpoint all the time, I thought none of what you said made any kind of sense.

But then as you went through the workshop, citing examples of many myths, like the 93% of communication is non-verbal, I understood your point. In many ways, your workshop was nothing but common sense. Let me give you an example, I am not sure if you are aware of the sport, cricket. Cricket is somewhat similar to baseball, only that in cricket, the ‘pitcher’ is called a ‘bowler’ while the ‘batter’ is called a ‘batsman.’ Once an Indian bowler was struggling to excel in his game, when he first made his debut, he was very successful, but over a period of time, he was struggling with his form. So he met a famous Indian spin bowler of yesteryear and asked him what he was doing wrong.

The veteran said, ‘You are constantly bowling over the wicket (which means on one side of the stumps) and you are being predictable. You have to start bowling from around the wicket (the other side of the stumps) to create a different angle, bounce and turn for the batsman. The young bowler said, ‘I have never bowled around the wicket in my life, I am not at all comfortable bowling around the wicket, I would feel as if I have no control of my bowling if I did that.’ The veteran replied, ‘Son, this sport is not about doing what you are comfortable doing, it is about constantly thinking about what makes the batsman uncomfortable. If you want to excel in your game, you have to constantly outthink the batsman and shift yourself from the center of the universe and making the batsman the center of the universe.’

I am not sure if I made my point, but the way I see it is, as researchers, sometimes we tend to consider ourselves as the center of the universe. So when you said avoid projecting slides for conference style presentations, I was alarmed because it would mean no more colorful fancy charts that I have used so long and no more complex analysis presented in numerical figures which have reported all the time. Like the young bowler, more often it is the internal fear within the researchers than the external fear of clients objecting to this style of presentation.

Your workshop emphasized two very important points- my client should be the center of the universe and not me, so I have to still do my statistical analysis as I have done before, but now instead of filling my report with graphs and numbers (which would mean it is the client’s responsibility to understand my universe), I now try to communicate in their language, which is ‘so what?’ the famous question always asked in Market Research. Again it is common sense, would a client want a presentation that would force them to do the hard work of understanding what to do though they have all the numbers in front, or would they want a piece of paper with the things that they need to fix or do?

Moreover as a researcher, for me to do that, it forces me to know their business better, understand their business needs better, always think about the big picture than be merely obsessed with numbers and if I am still struggling to come up with a story, it makes me go back and ask the question, ‘Is this a worthy research project?’

I thank you once again for the wonderful workshop, it was truly rewarding, fruitful and most importantly practically applicable.


Vijay Dandamudi
Market Research Specialist
Marketing Division

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