Lessons Learned from a Presentation about Lessons Learned

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It should have been a short and straightforward presentation about "lessons learned". I knew what I was going to say, so I even skipped the step of sketching out ideas first and went straight to designing some draft slides. Then I did a rehearsal - and noticed that the story didn't quite work. I tweaked the presentation somewhat and tried again. It still didn't work.

I took me a while to figure out the problem: I was stuck in the mindset of following the exact sequence of events that had led to the lessons learned. Which meant that I was trying to hold back the resolution for as long as possible. Yet, as the presentation was supposed to be about those lessons, they should have been central to the presentation, not come as an appendix.

I've made this mistake before. It's twofold, actually. There's this urge not to give away the solution while at the same time trying to stick with the chronological order of things to exactly reproduce how you arrived at the conclusions.

It may seem like this is at odds with the idea of storytelling but it's not.

In her book Resonate, Nancy Duarte describes the technique of switching between how things are and how they should be. So what you can do in your typical "lessons learned" presentation is to tell your story until the initial failure. Then analyse the problem or problems and explain how things should have been. You can then pick up the story again to describe the success you had after implementing the required changes.

That way, you end on a positive note and bring the story to a successful conclusion.

(Image Credit: SI - March 4; Apples by Jody Roberts, from Flickr)

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Creative Commons Licence "Lessons Learned from a Presentation about Lessons Learned" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.