5 Points on Sustaining Interest in Your Presentations

Also from my notes on Chip and Dan Heath’s article:

  1. Before the audience will value the info you’re giving, they have to want it. Demand has to come before supply.
  2. Therefore tease, don’t simply tell, by opening knowledge gaps and filling them.
  3. “Great presentations are mysteries, not encyclopedic entries.”
  4. “Curiosity must come before content.”
  5. Don’t structure your presentation by asking “what’s the next point I should make” but “what’s the next question I want them to wrestle with.”

And, here are a few great points on using data well:

  1. Don’t lead with the data — that leaves it abstract, and doesn’t move people emotionally. Tell a story about an individual first, and then say “our research suggests that there are 900,000 stories like this, in Mumbai alone.”
  2. “Data are just summaries of thousands of stories — tell a few of those stories to help make the data meaningful.”
  • http://www.squarepeggedness.wordpress.com Rachael Starke

    Hypocritical irony alert – I’m still not a hundred percent on board with you on the whole “secular leaders can give the church helpful advice on spiritual things” idea


    I honestly believe that every aspiring preacher and teacher should spend some time in presentation training of the kind the Heaths provide.

    I’d quibble a little bit with point 1, BTW. Often customers come in thinking they really want the answer to Question A, when in really they need the answer to a different question altogether. That’s another thing that makes Steve Jobs unique – he answers questions you only realize you had after he’s asked and answered them.

  • http://www.lifeofasteward.com Loren Pinilis

    I really like #5. Good presentations, lessons, sermons are journeys that have your wrestling through concepts and ideas.

  • Matt

    That’s a good point, Rachael, on preachers and teachers spending some time in the presentation training like what the Heath’s provide. I would agree.

    This is also a good case study on how “secular” thinking relates to the spiritual realm (in this case, preaching).

    One thing the Heaths say elsewhere in their article (and not included here) is that stories and examples are not the garnish of a presentation, but the entree.

    Now, that is a good way to present (if you can do it right). But pastors should _not_ take that counsel for their preaching. That’s what often results in sermons from Reader’s Digest rather than the Bible–the pastor thinks he has to string together stories, then a moral point, ado that a few more times, and you have a sermon.

    But the Heaths point does have an application to preaching. It is an echo of the fact that, in sermons, it’s not stories the preacher finds somewhere that are the basic building block, but rather _Scripture itself_.

    In other words, the essence of the Heaths’ point does have an application to preaching: don’t just make your points. Rather, _show from the text_ where you are getting your points. That–showing the meaning of the text itself, right from the text–is the entree of a good sermon.

    A preacher would only learn that from the Bible and other preachers, not a book like Made to Stick. But, already knowing that, he can then see an echo in the point Made to Stick is making, and adequately gain some additional insight from the essence of the point they are making (rather than the specific application they make).

    Loren: Great point–I think that’s one thing that makes Piper’s preaching so compelling. He often takes you on a journey–not of his own ideas, but of the meaning of the text. Along the way he creates problems, raises questions, and shows how they resolve from the Scriptures.

  • http://www.squarepeggedness.wordpress.com Rachael Starke

    Completely agree with you on the Readers Digest issue! I describe illustrations as condiments, or seasonings.

    I’m revealing the bias of my own background a little – I used to manage an executive speaking program and spent a lot of time coaching secular people with principles I’d gleaned from studying how God communicates with His people, as well as how great preachers (like Piper for sure) emulate that. eg. God has one point (Jesus), He illustrates in a variety of creative ways, He turns expected answers on their heads, etc. I wasn’t explicit about where these principles came from, but it was interesting to see how people improved in their presentations as they applied them.

    The Heaths actually partner with a consulting firm called Decker Communications to teach classes built around these principles. They even have one class they’ve customized for Christian teachers and preachers, because Bert Decker, the president is a committed Christian.