What’s the first Stanley Kubrick film you ever saw? The Shining? 2001: Space Odyssey? Lolita? Whichever it was, we imagine it left a pretty lasting impression. His films tend to do that with their unique cinematography, particular attention to detail and truly epic storytelling. Kubrick, who is considered one of America’s greatest filmmakers, would have been 84 years old on this day, and there are many lessons in presentation that we can learn from his distinguished career in filmmaking.
Connect all the Dots, but One
We’ve discussed in depth how throughout a presentation, you should never make the audience think. In fact, that is one of Jerry Weissman’s key pieces of advice in Presenting to Win. He urges presenters to explain how everything connects from point A to point B to point C. Show all connections with the utmost transparency and explain why each is there. Essentially, leave no stone unturned whatsoever.
However, Kubrick presents an interesting caveat to Weissman’s idea of connecting the dots for the audience: “When you say something directly, it’s simply not as potent as it is when you allow people to discover it for themselves.” There’s certainly truth in this statement, and it aligns perfectly with Dale Carnegie’s advice in How to Win Friends & Influence People to let other people think an idea is their own. If you do this, he says, they’ll be much more likely to support the idea because “we much prefer to feel that we are buying of our own accord or acting on our own ideas.”
Allowing the audience to come to an “Aha!” conclusion themselves is much more powerful and memorable for them than simply telling them everything point blank and reiterating those points over and over. Connect the dots as much as possible, but leave a little room for the audience to come to the ultimate conclusion.
Know What You Don’t Want
Kubrick was known for being an unrelenting perfectionist. He worked closely with his actors, and was often involved in painstakingly detailed set staging as well. “I do not always know what I want,” he said. “But I do know what I don’t want.” (Kinda sounds like a line from the Most Interesting Man in the World Dos Equis commercials, no?)
It’s far easier to determine what you don’t like than it is to figure out what you actually like. A negative reaction is much stronger than an ambivalent or even positive reaction, so before you begin crafting your presentation, figure out what it is you don’t like. Rule out all of those elements before beginning so it’s easier to make sense of what you do like.
A lot of times the hardest thing to do is to begin. We become daunted by the task at hand; we become intimidated by the project. Kubrick said, “Perhaps it sounds ridiculous, but the best thing that young filmmakers should do is to get hold of a camera and some film and make a movie of any kind at all.” And the same goes with presenters and presentations. Just begin. It feels scary and formidable and unnerving, but it’ll feel so much better once you start. We guarantee it.
Give yourself an easy task at first– maybe simply organizing your information– and then build up from there. If the scariest part of giving a presentation for you is the actual delivery, then gently acclimate yourself to the idea. Again, start slow– maybe simply visualizing yourself giving the presentation– and then build up from there.
Everyone has to start somewhere; even Kubrick was an amateur once.