Designing a Presentation that Captures the Magic of the Tooth Fairy

Do you remember losing your first tooth?  The build-up that came with the first wiggles of your lower incisor. The anticipation that came by placing the tooth under your pillow as you went to bed.  The sheer excitement that came when you woke up to find your tooth had been magically replaced by a quarter (that was the going rate from the tooth fairy that visited my house in the 80s).

How would that experience have been different if your parents had simply barged into your room at 11:00pm, shook you awake, said: “Here kid, here’s a shiny quarter for your tooth,” and then walked right back out of your room?  How would that experience have been different if your parents simply said: “Look, I’m just really busy with work and with my other children and with paying the bills, I don’t have time to prepare a whole show.  Besides, I’m really not that creative of a person.  And to be honest, it’s just so much quicker and easier to simply give my kid what he needs: a quarter.”?

This is the very equivalent of what we’re doing when we don’t block out the time we need to prepare a presentation.  This is the equivalent of what we’re doing when we say: I don’t know much about adult learning theory or instructional design, and besides I just need to tell them what they need to know.  The minute that attitude creeps in, the potential to create a magical learning experience that your audience will be excited to use when they return to their offices simply fades away.

So how can we keep the magic of learning alive?  Here are 5 questions to ask yourself the next time you begin to map out a presentation (or webinar or elearning module):

  1. What is my motivation for presenting?

Here are some answers that should raise red flags:

  • Because I was told I had to present.
  • Because I’ve presented on this topic many times before and I can use my old slides.
  • Because my audience will benefit from my expertise.

Here’s an answer that offers a lot of potential:

  • Because my audience will have increased abilities by the time I’m done with them.
  1. What should my audience realistically be able to do differently or better as the result of my presentation?
  2. How can I engage and capture my audience’s imagination and get them as excited about my topic as I am? (Hint: Just telling the audience what you think they need to know does not capture their imagination… you’re simply waking them up at 11pm and throwing a quarter at them.)
  3. Is my presentation designed to bring my audience along with me during the learning process… or is it designed to allow my audience an opportunity to check their email?

Consider these two equations when you answer this question:

  • Lecture + Text-heavy PowerPoint Slides using standard templates = Perfect conditions to get caught up on email
  • Storytelling + Simple Visual Aids = I might forget about my email for a while
  • Individual or Small Group Work + A show of hands or Large Group Report-outs = No time for email
  1. Am I willing to put in the time and effort (and/or find help) to make this an amazing learning experience?

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2 thoughts on “Designing a Presentation that Captures the Magic of the Tooth Fairy

    • “Large group report out” means getting answers from the entire audience.

      In a huge conference room or a ballroom with hundreds (or thousands) of people, this may not be feasible (though I’ve seen it done as “helpers” run around the room like Phil Donahue with wireless microphones; I’ve also seen technology help with this by having people Tweet or Text responses which are posted on a projector screen).

      In smaller rooms with 5 or 10 or 30 or 50 people, a large group report out would mean getting some responses, in front of everyone (“the large group”), of what people were thinking about or discussing during individual or small group work.

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