Can (should) you bring “Jaws” drama to data-based technical presentations?

data joey asher
Joey Asher's book on data-focused presentations

Public speaking consultant Joey Asher made an offer to several people, showing some savvy about book marketing. He would send me a free copy of his newest book: Riveting Data: How to make any presentation exciting using Hollywood storytelling techniques if I posted a review on Amazon, LinkedIn or both.

His concept — applying Hollywood story-telling culture to speeches that can be as dry as doorknobs — makes some sense and in fact the concept can be extrapolated to most of our business activities. It doesn’t hurt to put some flair, creativity, and excitement into stuff you usually consider to be (rightfully) dull — and the Hollywood script writing formula (which specialized consultants will teach you if you aspire to be a screenwriter) has proven to be economically viable since the movie industry started not much less than a century ago.

Like many sold ideas and concepts, however, the devil is in the details — and the details that I think will prove challenging for most people here relate to the amount of thinking and work it takes to get it right. Asher suggests an intriguing shortcut (which may be useful in many other situations): Call some people in your audience ahead of time to get a better understanding of their interests, character and what they expect from the presentation — if only to begin the relationship building that will result in an effective and much more focused story.

The book is small — you’ll be able to read through it in about an hour or so — and certainly it provides a roadmap. Be prepared, however, to spend quite a bit of time to implement and practice and get things right — you can’t just slap your technical Powerpoint presentation notes on your computer and rattle on following the “we’ve always done it that way” script.

The reward: You may indeed win your point, the sales contract, budget allocation, or strategic planning priority, and once you learn the model, you can replicate it for future presentations (though you’ll still need to put in more preparation effort than you likely would have previously.) It never hurts to put exceptional effort into key aspects of the marketing and business development process.

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