Don’t the facts speak for themselves?
Technical audiences want the information.
When we visit a company for the first time and start talking storytelling, this is the most common objection we hear. And it seems intuitive.
If you’re speaking to a technical audience, surely they want technical information and surely your lists of data and facts will lead them to the same conclusions you reached. Right? Wrong. Belgian engineer Jean-luc Doumont, author of Trees, Maps and Theorems, a book widely believed to be among the best on communicating scientific ideas, believes that most PhD students and scientists at conferences don’t understand or remember the presentations they hear. Why does he believe that? Because they tell him they don’t understand. And they tell him that even if they do understand, they’ve forgotten what they heard by the time they get home. Doumont believes that delivering an engaging and memorable scientific presentation hinges on good storytellling. And he’s not the only one. In 1985, American geologist and scientist, Jay Lehr wrote a scathingeditorial, Let There Be Stoning, in which he indicted a mass of scientific presenters for delivering boring, complicated and, ultimately, time-wasting presentations at expensive conferences. And yet 28 years after Lehr shouted his frustration to the rooftops, scientific presentations persist with information overload and little to no story structure. A lot of technical presenters believe audiences make rational decisions and, therefore, need reams of data. In truth audiences make emotional decisions and need a good story supported by true and meaningful data. If you don’t think people make emotional decisions, ask yourself this. Why are so many technical presenters building information heavy presentations when every piece of research on the subject tells them not to?