Five architect’s jewels for your next presentation


by Peter Paskale

Dramatic business presentations don’t require drama. They’re better off without it. Drama is showy and blowy and overstated. It instantly puts the audience on their guard.

Award-winning Canadian architect Sanjit Manku recently described a project that he’d undertaken on behalf of the French jeweller and perfumer Van Cleef & Arpels. His description pulls us gently into a lost-world of couture and design. We start to believe that we’re actually there, amongst a  glamorous global elite. Manku, as you’ll see in the video, uses two tools to achieve this. One of them comprises, to be sure, some impressive post-production work on the video itself, but the second is a good basic use of some concealed jewels of presentation technique.

Manku uses five of these techniques. For future presentations, think of yourself as the central jewel in the middle, and of these techniques as being the setting-stones that can make you shine.

Don’t shout it from the rooftops

Never shout. Manku uses a quiet delivery that draws us into his words and into his world.

The louder your voice, the more an audience will lean away from you. Experiment with reducing your volume just slightly, and you’ll notice how audiences lean-in, and become more focussed.

Use repetition

“Something that we love to do and that we love to explore in our own work.”

“..always evolving….always about creativity……. always about making something”

Repetition techniques are the foundation of public-speaking. On one level, it’s always good to repeat your main themes, but on another level, little micro-repetitions create rhythm and soundbites.

For example – “…government of the people, by the people, and for the people” came to be Lincoln’s most famous quote because of that repetition on the phrase  ‘the people”.

Criss-cross your terms

“…the lives of some of the women who have touched Van Cleef, and how the artists of Van Cleef have touched other people’s lives”

The heart of this phrase is ‘people who have touched Van Cleef and how Van Cleef has touched other people’. It’s the same structure that you might recognise from ‘I work to live – I don’t live to work’.

The phrase picks up its memorability from the cross-over. If I was to create one right here and now, I might say something like “I write for enjoyment, and I hope that you are enjoying my writing”.

Can you create something similar for your next presentation?

Say what something’s not

“…..they’re not objects – they’re emotional pieces.”

“…we hope that we don’t make walls or ceilings or objects either….”

The technical term is apophasis, and it’s when you define the topic by defining what its not. This is especially useful if you need to re-frame somebody’s view of the world. For example: “You’re not looking for the product that is the fastest nor the strongest nor even the most powerful – you’re looking for the optimal balance between all three.”

Overdo the ands and ors

In that previous example, we heard about “walls or ceilings or objects”. There’s one more ‘or’ in that sentence than is quite normal, and it’s a deliberate technique called polysyndeton. By replacing the commas in your lists with lots of ands or ors, then you make the list seem bigger – more powerful.

So, instead of telling your client that you’re going to “improve speed, power, and performance”, tell that that you’re going to “improve speed and power and performance”.

Powerful presentations don’t blast away at the audience like miners dynamiting a cliff. Great presentations finesse the audience, and that depends on the occasional phrases you choose, and the volume at which you use them.

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