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Why every presentation should be a little drama…

June 19, 2013 | bit-wartung | Methods & Tools |

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In the implementation process of the SRC Knowledge Management Concept the Inter- national Department of the Swiss Red Cross works on cooperation approaches and working methods. In a recent lunch time event with the title “presenting with inspiration” we were coached by an improvisation theatre specialist (Frank Renold, theatre anundpfirsich) on how drama can inspire our presentations. And how we can make our messages stick thanks to a little more drama in our presentations…

By Babette Pfander, Swiss Red Cross

It was a phantastic learning experience to apply theatre to our practice of presenting – the best thing about it was, that we could experiment with it, rather than thinking about it. Here a few principles we learned/experienced when playing theatre:

… being present is the basis for presenting!

Something very trivial, but often forgotten. It shows immediately to the audience, whether you are mentally fully present during your presentation. Mental multitasking is something that happens very often, but is very harmful to a powerful presentation. During the lunch event we practiced in a playful way how to raise our mental presence, which is not easy, especially in a packed working routine, where you tend to think about upcoming tasks while completing something else. “Presencing” is not difficult, but has to be practised.

… you only convince with your own excitement!

You might know the situation, when you have to present something, that you don’t burn for. Here the image of “fire” suits perfectly. If you don’t burn for what you present, how can you light the fire in others? Here the advice was to find a little something that you really relate to in whatever you present, and focus your excitement on that aspect. That will help you to get the entire package across in a more powerful way.

… play with your mistakes!

Quite often you are the only one who realizes that you made a mistake in a presentation – unless of course you give it undue attention. Don’t react to your own mistakes by making an elephant out of a fly, just let them go by and improvise yourself back to track. It is helpful of course, if you are self-confident and working in a learning organization, where mistakes are seen as opportunities for learning. And of course it helps to practice the capacity of improvisation.

… use gestures, sometimes even to replace spoken words!

In an exercise we only used pantomime to tell our story.

Coaching session with Theater anundpfirsich

We learned about the power of our body, not only to underline what we want to say but also in terms of replacing words by gestures. E.g. instead of saying that you decided to emigrate to another country, you might pack your suitcase with you hands, and sigh when you close it. This transmits not only the fact that you decided to emigrate, but also your emotions and the weight the decision had for you.

And my personal quintessence: allow for fun and laughter, even if the topic is serious.

Ressources and related stories:

Download SRC Knowledge Management Concept from SRC website
Simplicity wins – visualization as well. Tips for your next presentation 
♦ Peter Point’s Dream – Powerpoint Presentations and its Pitfalls

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Comments to“Why every presentation should be a little drama…”


  1. Dear Babette,
    In the Little Book of Talent from Daniel Coyle I read that exaggeration is a great learning strategy. What you did with the theatre group is exaggeration. And I can see that this is indeed a lovely way to learn a new presentation practice (and to unlearn the often ineffective and uninspiring PowerPoint way of delivering presentations). I agree fully we need presenters telling their stories and messages, presenters that inspire and make us think, presenters that touch our minds and hearts.
    Thank you for this post! Nadia

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  2. Ernst Bolliger says:

    Dear Babette
    On a congress a came across the presentation method “Pecha Kucha”. The Basic idea is simple: Each presenter gets 20 slides with 20 seconds per slide. So, the whole presentation lasts no longer than 7 minutes. There are no more long talks, but concise statements and meaningful illustrations.
    Pecha Kucha is a form of infotainment und has got a high attention worldwide.
    Two resource persons once put at the end of a long row of inputs (and finally not having time to share their Input with the public) have invented this method.
    The basic rules of Pecha Kucha are:
    o Resource persons do not have a pointer
    o 20 seconds are fixed in the powerpoint presentation
    o No explanatory text on the slides, if ever a key word. Not more!
    o Fix meaningful illustrations; no animation
    o Variation 1: Prezi instead of Powerpoint Slides
    o Variation 2: Two input persons sharing the talk.
    More info on Pecha Kutcha one can find on the Internet.
    Best, Ernst

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  3. Ernst Bolliger says:

    A nice input regarding drama on youtube:
    push to add drama – a dramatic surprise on a quiet square

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=316AzLYfAzw

    Enjoy it!
    Best
    Ernst

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  4. Babette says:

    Dear Nadia and Ernst
    thanks for your feedbacks. I love the short video on adding drama – it pulled me in again, even though I had seen it before. Drama is great.

    I also like you Pecha Kucha – it goes to the very core of being able to present well. I.e. if you have an image of what you want to tell, you can transport your message with much more effect than if you lack the full picture.
    and to all who are interested in improvisation theatre: Frank offers a short training in Sept and Oct in Berne (8 times on wednesdays). Here the link:
    http://www.pfirsi.ch/workshops/bern-improtheater-fur-einsteiger-und-weitermacher-a59/
    till soon
    Babette

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