A lot of business information is abstract. How can you make it more interesting?
I’m listening to an abstract presentation right now – “the accelerating forces of global integration” – but I’m secretly thinking about bananas.
It’s true I’m hungry. And I like bananas. But mostly I’m remembering the economist Alfred Kahn. In the late 1970s, after the White House scolded him for using the word “depression,” he substituted “banana.”
Today, Kahn might say, “we haven’t seen a banana like this in 80 years.”
What got us into this banana, at least partly, is our talent for abstractions (e.g. credit default swaps and other arcane financial instruments).
Nothing wrong with abstractions, except one thing: unlike bananas, you can’t visualize them.
That’s a problem when you’re presenting info. If your audience can’t see what you’re saying, they’re likely to daydream, unlikely to remember anything.
A) I was very busy at work. (Abstract).
B) I answered 37 emails over lunch, while eating several slices of pepperoni pizza. At least that’s what I think I ate. But maybe I answered several emails, while eating 37 slices of pizza. (Concrete).
Let’s go back to our original problem: Suppose you’re discussing the “accelerating forces of global integration.” Well, why not spice this up with an analogy. Global integration, hmm. . . what else requires integration? How about a smoothie?
In the midst of your talk, you could even make a smoothie. Bring in a blender, turn it on, and let it rip. That’ll “accelerate integration.”
Tip: When presenting abstract information, don’t forget the banana.
Consultant, author, speaker, and founder of express potential® (www.expresspotential.com), Paul Hellman has worked with CEOs, executives, and managers at leading companies for over 25 years to improve performance and productivity at work. His latest book is “Naked at Work: How to Stay Sane When Your Job Drives You Crazy,” and his columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post and other leading papers.
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