Connection Trumps Everything

Dave Paradi had an interesting post this week titled, “Does Great Content Trump Poor Visuals.” (Another in my weekly Best of Alltop on Speaking.)

As he told the story of an academic presentation with powerful content but terrible slides, he noted that flashy visuals can’t make the case with little content, but wondered if the reverse was true. I’d say neither.

You need connection. With dull visuals, with reading a speech, with no substance – you will have no connection. And no impact. Boredom, disinterest and tuneout. Twitter time for the audience.

Only if the audience is interested solely in the content and not the person and the experience (like college kids listening to a lecture for a test) does content reign supreme. At conferences and in business settings I’ve seen that happen only once in over 20 years – at a Pharmacist Convention during a research presentation (that would have been best presented in writing anyway.)

To make an impact you need connection, and that’s people connection, emotional connection and action connection. It comes from high energy, use of stories (SHARPS), knowing your audience and relating, looking, moving and having a beginning, middle and end, etc. You can have a connection with no visuals, (if you have to), but you can’t have a connection with boring and flat content and slides and behavior. If you have brilliant content but don’t feel it needs connection, submit a paper. The written medium is faster anyway (just not as powerful.)

Dave said it well when he said to NOT go to the PowerPoints first:

“Next time you start to develop a presentation, don’t sit down at your computer. Go to a quiet place with a pen and paper and allow yourself the time to concentrate on your desired outcome and the best way to achieve it. Only after you’ve got great content should you look to create persuasive visuals.”

And if you’re smart, then you will add some great visual ideas from Presentation Zen or Slide:ology.

8 comments on “Connection Trumps Everything

  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

  2. I agree that visuals are optional – the human brain is generally very good at conjuring up its own visuals while the presenter is talking.
    And I also agree that connection is vital. But so is substantive content. If there is no message why make a presentation at all. To me, the message and the supporting content is the basic building block for the presentation. By connecting and engaging with the audience you can then communicate that content to them.

  3. I experience real anticipation when a presenter’s slide show malfunctions and they have to present without that crutch. There have been surprises – and of course disappointments. A good example: last night a singing performer broke a guitar string – and proceeded to sing – and beautifully – without her guitar! That’s the sign of a true pro.

  4. And like I experienced when the audio didn’t play on a video I was showing in my PP’s. So immediate decision – show it silent or not. I did, and it worked as I talked around and over it.

  5. As a professional speaker I 110% agree! I’d rather have rapport and connection than a flashy ppt anyday!
    Ann M Evanston, MA
    Zena Enterprises