We’ve mentioned a few times already the idea of black box techniques, and how important it is for your audience to know where they are in the presentation – and to have the opportunity to re-join if they get lost. The key question is what stagecraft techniques do you use to signal the start of new sections of your presentation?
In the sections on slide design, we talked briefly about how to use your slides to make it clear to your audience when you’re moving on to a new topic.
- At the end of a section, have a black slide; then
- At the start of the next section have a heading of some kind.
Basic Stagecraft Techniques
This is probably the most simple tool in the toolkit.
You might, for example, give ‘chapter one’ of your presentation from the front left of the stage and at the end of that section, go to a black slide. While the black slide is on, cross over to the other side of the stage (front right) and move on to the next slide – the title slide for chapter two. This means that chapter two is delivered from a totally different side of the stage to chapter one.
You can get more sophisticated, of course, and start to use some advanced stagecraft. For example, you might…
present the overview of the problem from the left side of the stage
to describe your solution
the move to the left to discuss the costs of implementing your solution
once more to explain the long term
savings of your approach.
Pretty soon the audience is ‘trained’ to see the solutions and good news coming from the right hand side of the stage. Guess which side of the stage you should be standing on at the end, when you take a bow and ask for a payrise?! 🙂
The principles are easy – the application is trickier, because you’re trying to balance two conflicting issues. Let’s start with the simple stuff.
For different ‘chapters’ in your presentation, use a different medium. For example, you can move from using slides to using a flipchart. Remember that you can nicely integrate this with moving – if your flipchart is at the other side of the stage, for example, it gives you a good reason to be seen to move over between sections.
Now for the bad news – in an ideal world, you’d match the medium you use to the topic you’re covering. Remember my illustration of me learning to waltz? No slides, just physical effort! The tricky part is that if you try and do this and try to change medium for each section you can easily find yourself tied up in knots. It’s a bit like a seating plan a wedding – Aunt Daisy can’t sit next to Uncle Zen, which means that he needs to be on a table with Cousin Zarah – except that that means he’s also on the same table as Cousin Abraham, who he ended up biting at the last wedding…
There’s no over-all simple solution here – you just have to make the best compromise you can.
This is really a special case of changing medium where you take that change to the extreme of getting the audience involved. The password here is Ali.
The magic here is that when people are actively doing something in your presentation, different parts of their brain light up, giving them a deeper, more thorough embedding of your information.
A quiz or revision is a good plan – as is asking the audience to work with the person next to them. Keep it brief and keep it light-hearted, but examples of how you can do this (with the added benefit of helping fix your content in people’s minds!) include:
- asking people to explain to the person next to them how they’re going to apply “just one thing” from what you’ve said
- getting people to rank what is most useful for them of the things you’ve said
- suggesting pairs work as Devil’s Advocate, with one of them trying to unpick your ideas and the other one supporting you (take turns for extra hard work!).
… with different styles please!
There’s little point in changing one boring, detail obsessed, middle aged man for another boring, detail obsessed, middle aged man.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – using some kind of wrapping up summary is a great, great plan.