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Do you remember “show and tell” in kindergarten and grade school?

Members of the class would get up, showoff some object and tell the teacher and their peers about it. It is a great exercise and, for most of us, one of the first real experiences with formalized presentation. During show and tell you get to see reactions to public speaking/presentation that persist for the rest of life: Some kids get really nervous, some lose their train of thought and others step up and really throw it down, passion oozing out of every pore leaving their young cohorts transfixed.

Show and tell goes on until we die. If you are in sales, marketing and communications it is essentially what you do for money. Though you may have an MBA, a six figure salary, a trophy wife and a big house you are using skills you started honing in kindergarten.

A couple of instances of show and tell in the adult world help illustrate the point:

– A banker and an entrepreneur embark on a roadshow to generate interest in taking a company public via an IPO. This firm would definitely agree that this part of their biz, and others too, are show and tell.

– A PR agency pitches a prospective client on its services.

– A Mormon missionary in the Metro hands you a pamphlet and talks to you about how the Church of Latter Day Saints is gonna save you.

– A stripper dances on the stage at a club and when done sits down to chat with a patron for 5 minutes to see if she can convince him to go for a lap dance with her.

– A girl takes her new boyfriend out for dinner for the first time with a group of her close friends.

– A scientist submits a proposal to get a grant for her research study into what causes cancer cells to multiply.

In each of these instances adults are forced to show their mettle and explain why it is compelling. Because show and tell occurs so frequently in adulthood it is worth noting the keys to success at it (in a kindergarten classroom and beyond). By my read these are:

– Having an object to “show” that will be of interest to the audience. The object/proposition has to be compelling.

– Tailoring communications about the object to the level of the audience – speaking so they can understand you.

– Being perceived as genuine and authentic by the audience – (note – five year olds have a pretty easy time doing this).

– Letting the passion shine through.

Show and tell never stops so you better be good at it.

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