The concept of “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you have just told them” seems to have first appeared in D. Carnegie’s book “How to win friends & influence people which was first published in 1936 and was then reprinted in 1981. It must be admitted that it was, in it’s moment, a leading work on communication. However due to changes in communication styles, knowledge & techniques it lacks relevancy in today’s world.
There are many reasons why this sentence is no longer applicable in today’s world among which are the following (in no particular order of importance).
It is perceived as “simplistic” in that it appears to consider the audience as people who need to be told over and over again for them to understand something.
Some people actually believe that repetition is useful for training and it is a tried and true educational method. The problem occurs when there is meaningLESS repetition vs meaningFULL repetition. The traditional language learning technique of “listen & repeat” has been shown to be of limited efficacy in learning because of its meaningLESS rote memory style while other techniques require meaningFULL practice. It is vital that meaningFULL practice occurs over a period of time, not just in a 20, 40- or 60 minute presentation.
In a study conducted by Manchester University School of Education in 1984/85 with university undergraduates & children, it was discovered that merely telling someone information required 22 repetitions before learning occurred. Obviously, less repetitions were required when other meaningFULL techniques / tasks were applied.
Our own research in Brownlee & Associates over the past 25 years has clearly shown that one of the key elements that causes attendees in a presentation to totally disconnect is the meaningLESS repetition of information. The general consensus is that the presenter who uses this technique is obviously try to manipulate the audience which creates resentment and disconnection from both the topic & the person.
As we say in England, too much meaningless repetition is “Flogging a dead horse” or, in other words – Nagging!
Some people actually consider this phrase as being a way to “Structure” a presentation. This indicates either a lack of understanding about what the word “structure” means or that they do not understand that Dale Carnegie is just giving a series of vague instructions for the presenter!
-A presentation structure has to have a starting point, a middle and an end. All of which are joined by a logical skeleton (or structure). Often presenters put a “structure” or “Agenda” slide as the first one in the presentation and then keep referring back to it as the presentation progresses: so the audience “knows where it is and where they are going” – basically it is doing the same thing that Carnegie proposed only in a different form! Implicit in this is that the audience are idiots who do not have the intelligence to know what they have just heard and do not remember what is coming next. In order to remove this element, why not put a title at the top of each slide telling the audience the name of the area /topic being dealt with?
NOTE: There are only TWO types of presentations: to inform or to convince!
Every presentation is essentially either one or the other. We have never found any other underlying purpose of a presentation. If you want to add emotional elements such as; Motivate the audience, etc., this is easily be included in either type.
Known to Unknown:
-All of our effective communication goes from the known to the unknown so the first element in any presentation MUST be information already known to the audience but presented in a very brief manner.
– The second element to deal with in a presentation to “Convince” is an analysis of the problem and various options to resolve it.
– This must be followed by the third element which is a specific proposal. The proposal part should take up to 80% of the presentation time.
In addition there are two other elements that must be considered:
1. Presentations generally go from general to specific.
2. From simple to complex.
These points help to ensure that your presentation is logical & coherent FOR THE Audience; it has a beginning which they can understand and relate to; a middle which provides the required data, information and reasons for making the required decision; and an end which includes the steps to be taken and when. And, even more importantly, shows respect for the audience on a psychological level.
Communication has changed over the last 50 years, but many trainers have not: they still keep on teaching the same old rubbish because it is “Safe” and does not require any effort.
If you are a trainer who really wants to teach your learners quality presentation skills, STOP teaching them material from the 1930’s.
© Ian Brownlee, Brownlee & Associates, S.L., Madrid, Span, 2012.
Email: Brownleeassociates (at) gmail.com
Bilingual web page (Spanish & English) http://www.brownlee-associates.com