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The Three "S" Advantage

The Three "S" Advantage is guaranteed to help you develop a more powerful, memorable, and impactful presentation. The three S's stand for stories, simulations, and a summary of the scientific evidence. For example, in Brad's Master_Negotiator presentations, he begins with the concept that we can build our futures with creative or wasteful solutions. Step one is to illustrate the concept with a convincing story. Step two is to use a simulation that ensures that the audience experiences the concept by creating a teachable moment. Step three is to present a summary of scientific evidence that supports your point.

The reason you want to use the Three "S" Advantage is because of the incredible synergy that you can develop by combining these three elements. A mathematical analogy to illustrate synergy is 3 + 3 + 3 = 9, however, 3 3 3 = 27. If used correctly, the use of stories, simulations, and summaries of the scientific evidence can increase both the breadth and depth of your material as no other method can. The stories bring perspective and memorability, the simulations let the participant experience for himself or herself the point you are trying to make, and summaries of the scientific evidence add proof that reassures your audience that the material has withstood the test of time.

Stories

As noted, compelling stories draw the audience into your topic. They have humor, intrigue, suspense, or pathos. The audience is drawn into the topic, forgetting their everyday concerns. The audience lets out a gasp, or sits on the edge of their seats trying to figure something out that has become important to them. Good storytelling, like good joke telling, is an art. Master_Presenters practice their stories over and over again, changing parts and studying how the audience responds, until they get the story just right. Long after the participants have forgotten everything else, they will remember a great story. All of the stories that Master_Presenters use serve to make a point, and that point is so well crafted and so well told that it is etched indelibly into the participants' memory.

Simulations

The best piece of educational technology ever created was the flight simulator. Should we have simulators for all of our training? Yes. Why don't we? Too much money. But when you're sitting in your seat in a 747 and wondering about the skill level of the pilot, you don't say to yourself, "Gee, I hope he passed that paper test in flight school." You want to know that pilot [has] actually flown or has simulated flight in a number of the most challenging circumstances that he's "done it." Our training needs to be the same way.

—Roger Schank

Simulations create three-dimensional models that allow the participants to experience the topic under discussion without the attendant risks that could occur in real life. Simulations allow people to get out of their comfort level; to experiment; to try out new behaviors; and see for themselves if they work, how they work, where they work, and, just as important, where they do not work.

For example, in Brad's negotiation presentations, the participants often simulate negotiating the sale of a house where the only remaining issue is the closing date. After the negotiation, they then analyze themselves and each other as to the negotiation style they used. Likewise, when David teaches writing programs for business, he explains that he was once hired to proofread a promotional piece for the launch of a new Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition. The PR person responsible for the launch said, "I've checked everything several times. I'm confident it's ready to go to press, but my boss said I have to get someone else to check off on it. It's mostly just a formality at this point, but he said if there are any mistakes, it's my neck." Then David passes out a copy of the piece and asks the participants to proofread it as if their careers depended on it. Why is this an effective presentation tool? Because it simulates a real situation with very real consequences.

Summary of Scientific Evidence

We have all attended presentations that were well organized and very well presented. But after all was said and done, they left a funny aftertaste. We had learned nothing new. They remind us of the famous Wendy's commercial in which a woman asked, "Where's the beef?" Presentations that use relevant scientific evidence add content and substance, which enables us to better understand the world and/or see it in a new way. We are left feeling satisfied that the presenter took the time to create a meaningful presentation that has left us with content that we can use.

Step three of the Three "S" Advantage is to summarize the scientific evidence. For example, after a negotiation simulation that reveals the participants' negotiation style, Brad presents the Gerald Williams's research on negotiation style. Because the participants had just negotiated and experienced how well their style and the other participants' style worked or didn't work, the scientific evidence has 100 percent more meaning to the participants than if it were introduced on its own.

Note that the Three "S" Advantage is not to be used rigidly. You can present very effectively by using part of the model, or by using some elements of the model more than once. For example, Master_Presenter and author William Bridges very successfully uses elements one and two, storytelling and simulations, in a presentation on transitions. During the presentation he would stop lecturing and/or storytelling, and at critical points he would ask the participants to form into groups of four to carry out an exercise or simulation. For example, he asks the participants to share a transition that they were in at a previous time in their lives and identify for themselves, and for each other, a skill or a strategy that helped them master that transition. Second, the participants were to state how that same skill or strategy could help them master a current transition or one that they would soon be facing.

Bridges could have lectured on this point until the cows came home and it would never have had the impact that "harvesting the past" had as an experiential exercise. The use of this exercise was much more powerful than a traditional lecture could have ever been.

Please note that the order of the three elements depends on which order works best for your particular presentation and your particular audience. After you become familiar with the method, you can vary the number of elements. For example, you may chose to start with a story, do a simulation, give a summary of the scientific evidence, and then end the section with another story. As you become more familiar with the Three "S" Advantage, you will be able to pick the precise element(s) to make your presentations as powerful as those of the Master_Presenters you have met in the pages of this resource.

The following exercise has been designed to help you master the Three "S" Advantage.

EXERCISE 2-3

Design an element of your next presentation or design an element of a current presentation using at least two of the elements of the Three "S" Advantage.

  1. How will you use storytelling techniques to add impact to your presentation?

  2. How will you use a simulation to add impact to your presentation?

  3. How will you use a summary of scientific evidence to add impact to your presentation?



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