Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Spoken Words

Presentation, as the word suggests, is the act of making something present. It is the art of giving presence to a theme, and in research this normally means bringing something you know to the attention of someone else. Presentation is therefore not just something that happens to the thing, the object of knowledge; it is something that happens between people, the subjects of knowledge. While a presentation does impart knowledge, that is not all it does. It also leaves an impression of the speaker in the mind of the listener.

To see what I mean, consider the difference between Chris Taylor's presentation of basic investment concepts...

Stock Markets:
Creating A Portfolio

...and Scott Leonard's.

Stock Markets:
Investing Basics

The best way to notice the "impression of the speaker" that these two presentations make on the listener is to ask yourself who seems to better know what he is talking about. I hope we can agree that Leonard leaves a stronger impression than Taylor, even though they are probably equally knowledgeable about the subject.

The simple reason for this is that Leonard is speaking off-the-cuff, apparently extempore, while Taylor is (I'm going to assume) reading his words off a tele-prompter. Watching Taylor, the thought occurs to us that we could make better sense of what he is saying by simply reading his text for ourselves. His own persona is not making a contribution to our understanding. Leonard's manner, by contrast, is so "natural" that we may not give his personality a second thought. His ease and confidence on the subject of investing merely allows his knowledge to get a across. This difference between Taylor and Leonard is important to understand when developing your style of presentation.

On Friday, I want to apply this difference to the written text, which may also differ greatly in "presence".

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