Monthly Archives: July 2013

Does Lipstick on a Pig Work?

Does lipstick on a pig work?

pig with lipstick

Consider this:

Let’s say you are the head of the Medieval French Literature Department at a well known university. Your best friend is the head of the Theoretical Physics Department. He is scheduled to give a talk on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to a group of physicists next week but because of a family crisis, he will not be able to attend. He gives you a copy of his talk and asks you if you will stand in for him. You agree. You spend the whole week memorizing the speech. You remember every single word. You find a YouTube video of him giving the same talk a year ago and you memorize every single one of his hand gestures. You now know when to look down, when to look up, when to breathe and when to pause. A vendor stops by and tells you he can sell you some fancy razzle dazzle animation add-ons to impress the audience. He tells you they will make your presentation “more interesting to the audience”. You pay him $20 and you now have razzle and dazzle on your side.

The day comes and you give a flawless presentation. That is UNTIL someone in the audience asks you a specific question about Einstein’s theory. You stand there with your mouth wide open, staring into space and everything goes black and you fall flat on your face on stage.

What is the moral of this story?

Never give a presentation or talk on something you know nothing about. All the coaching in the world about hand gestures, tonal inflection and articulation will not help you. Neither will any fancy razzle dazzle or animation.

Lipstick on a pig does not work. Period.

If you do know your topic, your razzle dazzle animation will simply distract your audience from your message

Steve Jobs – acknowledged by most people to be the best presenter of his time – never used razzle dazzle.. They will be sitting there wondering whether the next razzle will zoom in from the left or the next dazzle will drop in from the top.

He knew his topic. He used a simple picture as a background and he SPOKE to his audience.

By the way, there is an exception to the rule cited above. You CAN give a long talk on something you know nothing about IF you happen to be a ruthless tinhorn dictator in a banana republic. No one in the audience will dare to ask you any question.