I’ve been saying “Show Don’t Tell” in a lot of my sessions recently. It’s one of the fundamentals in “performing” your content and drawing in your listener.
The ideology I use is taught in novel writing. The lesson is that you give the reader the opportunity to add their imagination to the story. Instead of the author writing “She laughed nervously” – which tells the reader exactly what is going on, the ‘Show Don’t Tell’ version is “Her cheeks flushed as she laughed”.
A good author then allows you, as the reader, the space to put your thoughts and pictures into the book, to read betwen the lines, meaning you’re able to engage with the content at a personal level.
How then does this translate to presenting?
Often it’s how you go about explaining your content.
Imagine you are using an audio clip from an interview. You set it up by giving it context…
“Tom Odell was in yesterday and we asked him what he thought of the Euros…. Here’s what he said” <Play Clip>
At a basic level, you don’t need the “here’s what he said”. It is fine to say:
“Tom Odell was in yesterday and we asked him what he thought of the Euros…<play clip>”
One step further might get you to a more interesting place
“Up next is the new song from Tom Odell – He’s a big football fan, how’s he feeling about the Euros? <PAUSE FOR A BEAT> <Play clip>”
In an “On Stage” context you can also think about how you are using your slides to show what you are talking about rather than telling your audience what you are saying. You and I both know we shouldn’t write up bullet points on the powerpoint word for word, but when we get to it it’s difficult to find images. We’ve all done it: the bullet points find their way back in. Unfortunately it is a sure fire way to get your audience to glaze over.
Of all examples of the “Show Don’t Tell” technique in presenting content, my favourite has to be the first 60 seconds of this.