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I just returned from my first WordCamp,  in Asheville, NC.  It was a great experience.  I was pleases to see a diversity of men and women, techies and entrepreneurs.  I was able to see how 6-8 different presenters presented on various topics, and I realized a couple of things.

Over the next 4 weeks I am scheduled to present 4 presentations myself, so I was hyper-sensitive to what did and didn’t work. I have done presentations  before, but it’s been almost a year since my last presentation and I already feel rusty. One of the presentation I will be doing will be for a community college, one will be for a virtual genealogy society, and the last two will be for an Unlock the Past genealogy cruise to Alaska!

Different Strokes for…?

Most of the presentations I have done to-date have been training classes for my genealogy software product, Evidentia.  These classes show users of the Evidentia how to use the software from beginning to end, and generally take about 90 minutes.  None of the presentations I am doing in the next 4 weeks give me that much time.  I have been struggling with how to frame the content for these new venues.

As I have mulled over the best way to present, I have slowly realized there are basically three kinds of presentations:  Show, Tell, and Train. I wanted to capture my thoughts on each style.


Out of order, I know, just bear with me.

In my mind, a “Tell” presentation is one in which the presenter has information to share, and does so via a lecture, with or without a Powerpoint. The speaker has a set of bullet points to cover, with the assumption that each one has value.

I had hoped WordCamp would be more Show than Tell, but alas I was disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, I will go to WordCamp again, because most of the information was valuable.  A few of the presenters were extremely entertaining, and knew how to get their point across. However, a Tell presentation relies heavily on how dynamic the speaker is and /or how entertaining the quality of their Powerpoint is (everyone has a Powerpoint!)

I found myself shouting inside “Show me!”


To “Show” is to offer a demonstration.

“Here is how I use product X to solve problem Y”.

“These are the steps I followed…”

“See, this screen let’s me do that.”

I find this style to be much more engaging.  I get to see what product the presenter prefers, and exactly how they use it.  To be fair, the presenter can cover a lot less material, but the material they cover is SO helpful.

In my struggle to identify how much content I can cover in an hour (allowing time for questions that’s 50 minutes, tops), I realized this was my target.  I need to “Show” how my product can be used to solve problems important to the user.  However there is  not enough time to…


To “Train” requires a commitment from the trainer and the student. The trainer must communicate in more detail exactly how the application can be used to solve problem X, not just that it can.

Meanwhile the user has to commit to take the time required to learn.  If they want to see the full value of their purchase, they must willing to take the time.

That’s why when I train its usually 90 minutes, not 50 minutes.


If time is limited, I want to Show, not Tell. I believe showing is more engaging, interactive.  Show also requires less commitment than Train, so its easier to capture the audience’s attention. To Show is to reveal what is possible in a succinct way.  The goal of the Show is to interest the audience in my product or service, so that they see the value in it, and perhaps make the commitment to Train.

What do you think?


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