The maths of a better presentation

In my original post I proposed that a presentation is the product, rather than the sum of its parts. More than simply a construct of mathematics this is a model that allows a deeper understanding of the nature of presentations, their variable efficacy and means to improving the quality of presentations.

There are three facets of a presentation: the presentation, the presentation and the presentation. That is, the story (p1), the supporting visuals (p2) and the delivery (p3). The success in delivering the message of “the presentation” can be calculated as the product of the three parts (p3). One can apply this to any “presentation” from telling a joke at the dinner table, a research presentation, a business plan, a keynote speech, a play or even a feature film.

p1 x p2 x p3 =  p3

The specific quality and combination of these components will give a variable product (p3) thus allowing understanding of why the same story (p1) and visuals (p2) delivered with passion (p3) is more effective than if delivered in an almost inaudible monotone. Clearly this is audience dependent. An excellent Shakespearian script (p1) acted out (p2) and (p3) by the local rep theatre would likely score less than the same script acted out by school children but viewed by their parents. We do well as presenters to remember that the event is about the audience, not us.

The mathematical model allows explanation of why bad powerpoint fails. The majority of presentations are simply constructs of “the powerpoint” (p2). This frequently is then taken as the script (p1) and consequently directly limits the nature of the delivery (p3). The quality of the presentation overall (p3) can only be a direct reflection of “the powerpoint” (p2). This also explains potentially why audiences complain not about a bad presentation but about bad powerpoint.

1 x 1 x 1 = 1

To improve a presentation, the novice usually directs their attention to improving “the powerpoint” (p2) adding clip art, images, animation or “trendy” colour schemes. Whilst this may divert the audience it does not affect the constrained script or the delivery.

1 x 1.9 x 1 = 1.9

The same amount/unit of small improvement spread over the three components however can be seen to bring about greater improvement.

1.3 x 1.3 x 1.3 = 2.197 

It is clear also that even moderate improvement in the presentation as a whole compared to the norm can be achieved by modest improvement in each part.

3 x 3 x 3 = 27


So, you do the maths. A small change can bring about dramatic improvement in reception.

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  1. Pingback: The Greatest Presentation in the World (tribute) - p cubed presentations

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