There’s a statistic I love from John Medina — a developmental molecular biologist based at the University of Washington. In his book Brain Rules he shares that when we read or hear a piece of information that consists solely of words, after three days we’ll remember just 10% of it. Add in a visual aid — a photo, illustration or video — and the retention level of that same information jumps to 65%. That’s an enormous difference; and shows the real impact that small changes we make to our presentations can have on learning valuable information.
This statistic, along with many other lessons I’ve gleaned as part of my own presenting journey, is one we use to inform our work with our clients. Long before founding Trimble Productions in 2020, I was looking to make a change when it came to how I presented. Watching or listening back to recordings, I felt the presentations I made were much too detailed — which meant my audience could lose sight of the key messages among excess information. It’s due, in large part, to my desire to improve the effectiveness of my presentations, that has led to so much of the work we do today; with the aim, of course, of improving learning outcomes for everyone.
Techniques and tools
Our attention spans are much shorter than they used to be. In 2008, the average attention span was around 22 minutes — which has decreased to about 18 minutes in 2022. As presenters, that means two things: our presentations need to be short, and the messaging — the outcome we want to obtain — needs to be clear. This requires planning. One of my own downfalls when it came to presentations was around planning. Overwhelming your audience with too much detail makes it difficult for them to grasp the concept. Which is why proper planning, and staying focused on that key message, is so integral to a great presentation — and needs to happen from the very start.
Another challenge for me, and I’m sure many others, was around my presentation skills. As vets, academics and industry professionals, it can be rare to be given formal training in how to present or use tools such as Powerpoint effectively. I wasn’t informed on how to practise or prepare — which led to verbal fillers and speaking too fast. I really benefited from practising, but also taking time to be clear and slowing down. We now work with a fantastic presentation coach Jon Robbins, who works directly with our clients to help them present in a way that gets their message across clearly and succinctly, while feeling confident and at ease. Whether you’re presenting face-to-face or virtually, there are small changes you can make that can make a substantial difference — from how your voice comes across, to the speed of your presentation and how you stand. I know from my own experience on how much a bespoke presentation toolkit can increase your confidence when it comes to presenting; making it not only more effective but enjoyable.
Finally, we know that strong visual aids can have a powerful effect on your audience’s ability to retain information. At Trimble Productions, visuals are a vessel for storytelling — which is a really powerful medium. We run one-day workshops for clients where we share storytelling techniques as well as examples from fantastic experts that can be applied to their own presentations. Some of the examples we explore come from places you might not expect — from educational companies to media platforms like Netflix and films. It’s important for us to take inspiration and lessons on effective communication from industries outside our own; it really adds a dynamic element to the work that we do, expands our own production capabilities and increases the impact we can have for clients.
That impact comes in the form of the visual assets that we create as part of a bespoke presentation. We can help with everything from scripting to producing illustrations, video and photography; all the tools they need to deliver a really powerful presentation themselves.
Ultimately, for me, better presentations are about getting people to listen to your message and stay listening. Whether it’s a new surgical technique or a better understanding of disease process and how it can be managed, we want our audiences to listen to what we’re saying and remember it.
The aim is to create a change; whether that comes to our professional approach to learning a new technique or medical procedure. As an industry, we’re all looking to improve animal welfare; and presentations can be a powerful tool towards that goal.
If you'd like to harness the power of presentations for your organisation, book a call here to find out more.