Review: Dan Roam’s Show and Tell – How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations

dan roamThis review first ran in the May 12th edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Show and Tell: How Everybody Can Make Extraordinary Presentations

By Dan Roam



Greg Maychak from the City of Hamilton paid our senior management team a visit last month.

Maychak gave us a presentation on the 2015 Pan Am Games and made a pitch for volunteers.

Maychak’s pretty passionate about the Games and he made a strong case for why we should share his enthusiasm.

About a third of all tickets sold for the Pan Am Games will be for the 32 soccer matches to be played at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton. More than 300,000 people will be in the stands and then celebrating in our streets over 16 days next July. The Games will showcase Hamilton to the Americas and inject a pile of money into our local economy. It’s going to be a very good summer for restaurants, bars and pubs along James Street North.

I put away my smartphone and gave Maychak my undivided attention because he did what all good presenters do.

“As presenters, our goal is simple,” says Dan Roam, visual communications expert and author of Show and Tell. “Help others see what we see.”

You do that by entertaining, educating, persuading, motivating and ultimately changing your audience.

To deliver an extraordinary presentation, follow what Roam calls the three rules of show and tell.

“Lead with the truth and the heart will follow. Lead with a story and understanding will follow. Lead with the eye and the mind will follow.”

Lead with none of the above and you inflict death by PowerPoint on an audience that’s not paying attention.

When you tell the truth, you connect with your audience, you become passionate about what you’re presenting and you find your self-confidence. Audiences are perceptive and will tune you out if you’re stretching or dodging the truth.

When you tell a story, you make complex ideas clear, you make your ideas unforgettable and you make everyone feel included.

“Clear storylines are our best defence against confusion,” says Roam. “They force complexity into submission long enough to be tamed.”

He claims all presentations can be delivered using just four storylines. The report storyline conveys facts and changes the audience’s information. The explanation storyline teaches new insights, changing our knowledge or ability. The pitch storyline recommends a new solution that changes our actions. And the drama storyline inspires a new way of looking at the world and changes our beliefs.

Think of storylines as a guide rope that connects you with your audience. “As presenters, it is our job to keep this line taut and moving,” says Roam.

You keep that line from going slack or getting tied in knots by showing pictures. When you tell us a story with pictures, we see exactly what you mean, you grab and keep our attention and you banish boredom.

According to those in the know, more of our brain is devoted to vision and visual processing than other known functions, including language.

“If our eyes don’t have something interesting to look at, we will make stuff up.” A PowerPoint slide jammed with text and charts that no one can read is not interesting.

According to Roam, any story can be illustrated using just six pictures: portraits, charts, maps, timelines, flow charts and equations.

Roam is a big believer in doodles. “Overly beautiful stock photos actually damage our message. Our audience knows the picture isn’t true and disconnects from us. Staged photos of people compete with the person actually on the stage. The ideal picture is just the essence of an idea made instantly visible and nothing more.”

A presentation done right is a gift, says Roam. “At any presentation, our audience is investing a part of their lives in us. The best gift we can give ourselves is learning how to show and tell. The best gift we can give one another is an extraordinary presentation.”

Published by

Jay Robb

I've reviewed more than 500 business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and worked in public relations since 1993.

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