Lessons from the Cheetah run

What a running Cheetah taught me about presentations

I wanted to put my new Google Pixel 2 phone through its paces by taking a 240 frame per second video of the Cheetah run, a daily event at the San Diego Safari Park.

Cheetah run

Amazing, isn’t it! So lesson number one, keep your eyes on the target. Your target is the title of your talk. It is the reason why your audience came to your talk. Do not deviate from it. Make clear how each slide relates to it.

I was intrigued by what the staff was doing before the run. Two people went up and down the one hundred meter track several times to pick up any leaf, or potential distraction away from the center line which the cheetah will follow. So lesson number two, avoid distractions that will defocus your audience such as irrelevant photos, gif files, irrelevant slide backgrounds.

The animal had two runs. The second run was one second faster than the first run (an amazing 5.7 second for the 100 meter race). Lesson number three, rehearse. You will be more effective and more concise. But the Cheetah had to rest between the runs to let the heat accumulated during the run dissipate. Do not rehearse back to back too long. Give yourself some time between your rehearsals to recover from rehearsal fatigue.

The spectators were watching the Cheetah and the cheetah was looking at the lure. Final lesson: the audience is watching you too. Be at your best 🙂

Keep what the audience sees in sync with your speech

Take it from me, as a presenter, if you don’t sync, you do not exist. Have you ever wondered why the audience does not pay attention to you, but only has eyes for the beloved PowerPoint slide? Feel like a jealous lover? It’s apple of the eye for PowerPoint and tin ear for you!

When that happens, it is simply because you are not keeping what the audience sees in sync with your speech, in other words, the audience is suffering from a chronic case of divided attention. We, human folks, are not very good at doing two things at once when our senses are pulling us in different directions.

 

The cure to the presentation problem is actually straightforward – and it’s not “Present now and drink later to drown your sorrow!”

1) Guide the eyes to what you describe.

Discourage forward reading and re-reading.

 

Point, circle, color what you describe, remove highlights after description.


Move the pointing object, or ask the audience to track an object moving through the static slide .


2) Take the attention away from the screen when the screen does not support your talk.

Blank the screen (B-Key or black slide).


And finally, move away from your position, change your intonation, stop talking.

Our brain is actively engaged in determining what changes from one moment to another. It pays attention to what changes. Motion of the presenter is perceived at the same level as any change on the screen. Therefore, move from your base position, use gestures. A new voice pitch or added intonation is also perceived as change by the ear. Silence is perceived as change just as effectively.

By Jean-luc Lebrun

Image source: Flickr,Author photo 1:  “pedestrian photography”; photo 2: “Colin Purrington”