Sunday, August 10, 2008

Free e-book on presentations, with a great story

Why bad presentations happen to good causes is a 100 page e-book written by Andy Goodman that can be downloaded free from Hershey/Cause.

Contents include:
Chapter 1: The sorry state of the art
Chapter 2: Building better presentations
Chapter 3: Improving your delivery
Chapter 4: PowerPoint is your friend
Chapter 5: The small stuff (it’s worth sweating)

Chapter 1 identifies a “fatal five” problem factors which are:
1. Reading the slides
2. Too long, too much information
3. Lack of interaction
4. Lifeless presenters
5. Room/technical problems

Chapter 2 (on building better presentations) includes a great “ultimate elevator story” told in just 500 words on pages 30 and 31 of the text (page 36 and 37 of the Acrobat file). An even briefer summary follows.

Two brothers managed a vintage 11-story apartment building. Tenants had complained that the only elevator was glacially slow. One brother took the obvious technical approach. He got bids, selected a contractor, and had the drive mechanism updated to run faster at a cost of $150,000. Then he surveyed the tenants, who were quite unimpressed.

The second brother made other, much less expensive changes ($5000, or 1/30th the cost). Then he surveyed the tenants again, and they said that they now were quite pleased. What had he done? He’d just added full length mirrors at every floor on either side of the elevator doors.

The first brother thought the question to answer was “how do we make the elevator go faster?” The second brother realized that the question actually was “how do we make time pass faster for the waiting customers?”

There are two morals for this story. First, sometimes the problem isn’t what you first think. Second, the solution may not be expensive technology or “smoke and mirrors”, but just mirrors.

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