Steal This Tip! #5: For Effective Presentations, Think Backwards

Posted by Bridget Beirne
March 25, 2015

by Bridget Beirne

bridget-beirne-1Do you ever get stuck, somewhere between the first good idea and your intended conclusion, when developing a presentation? Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a presentation rehearsal, wondering why the threads of your presentation don't tie up? Here's a tip you can steal to get unstuck.

In a recent blog post, I mentioned a book popular with actors called "Backwards and Forwards," written by David Ball. In it, there are lots of suggestions for script analysis, one of which is approaching the text backwards. Yep, start at the end FIRST.

Sure, you might not want to do this when reading your favorite mystery novel (Dang! I KNEW the butler did it!), but when it comes to creating effective presentations, thinking backwards, and then working through your presentation in reverse, can make a difference. Even if your presentation development is cruising along without a hitch, running through your content starting at the end can ensure that all of your information is supporting your intended conclusions.

Here are some ways thinking backwards can help you break down the presentation roadblocks:

1. Unnecessary information leaps out: Say your Objective is to excite your audience about a system upgrade. Somewhere in the middle of your presentation, you find a tangent where you discuss a failed idea in the development of this upgrade. Does that NEED to be included? Does it support your effective-presentationsObjective? Is it just information for information's sake? What may seem like supportive details when thinking forwards can be revealed as unnecesary when thinking backwards.

2. "What step gets me here?": If you get stuck between step 1 and step 10 when thinking forwards, flip your thinking and you find a different, goal-oriented question to answer. Instead of "what comes next?" you can ask yourself, "what step gets me here?" Again, you're thinking of how you can achieve your overall Super-Objective. That's a powerful approach.

3. A fresh perspective: Have you ever found that you've looked at a set of data, or a block of text, or a slidedeck so many times that you stop seeing it? Sometimes, we just get too close to the information to clearly discern solutions to the problems we're having. Instead of running through your content AGAIN, from the top, run it through once, backwards. Start reading through your conclusion, then read through your last key point, then the previous key point, and so on. Simply a fresh perspective on your information can go a long way towards getting you unstuck.

What do you do when you hit a roadblock in your presentation? Have you ever tried thinking backwards? Let us know in the comments!

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