New book encourages less presentation, more conversation
One Bucket at a Time shares secrets to informing, educating, influencing and persuading any audience


“The central theme of this book that a presentation should be a conversation is ingenious. Humans have evolved for hundreds of thousands of years to communicate by conversation. We are mentally structured to do so.

"For anyone seeking to set themselves and their ideas apart, this book is well worth the read. Eric Bergman’s techniques are a window to the future of this important human activity.”

John Sweller, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Education, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Cover of the presentation skills book One Bucket at a Time
TORONTO, ON, October 19, 2020—Whether a presentation is delivered in the room or via Zoom, a new book is encouraging presenters to embrace more conversation and less presentation if the goal is to have ideas understood, retained and acted upon by the audience.

One Bucket at a Time is based on the assumption that the only reason for bringing people together is to listen to someone share something of value.

“You can have a presentation without slides,” author Eric Bergman writes. “But you cannot have a presentation without a presenter. At its core, therefore, the effectiveness of any presentation can be measured by what makes it from the speaker’s vocal cords to the long-term memory of those in attendance.

“Once you understand that thought, it becomes evident that feeding into how people listen is the most critical presentation skill to develop.”

One Bucket at a Time is organized into eight easy-to-read chapters:

  • Prime the pump
  • From tank to bucket to trough
  • Avoid bucket overload
  • Shape the tank
  • Fill the bucket
  • Top up the trough
  • Tap the potential
  • One final drop
The book uses an analogy to help readers understand how people listen. The tank is the information the presenter plans to get across to the audience. The trough is the collective long-term memory of those in attendance. The goal of any presentation should be to get as much as possible from tank to trough.

The only way that happens, however, is if the audience engages working memory to transfer ideas, one bucket at a time.

The challenge is that the bucket of working memory is incredibly small, more like a child’s sand bucket than a milk pail, and it’s easily overloaded. When that occurs, information spills out, never to be remembered.

Using a combination of cognitive science and common sense, Bergman makes the case that the best way to fill the bucket is through a relaxed, conversational delivery. The audience needs silence, and lots of it, in order to empty the bucket into long-term memory before being ready to fill it again.

While most presentations focus solely on attempting to teach others, Bergman’s approach is different. He advocates helping the audience teach themselves. The audience should have plenty of opportunity to ask questions, which are best answered clearly and concisely.

For Bergman, tapping the potential of presentations boils down to engagement, which he defines along a spectrum. Engagement begins when working memory passes ideas to long-term memory, one bucket at a time. At the other end of the spectrum are presentations after which the audience can effectively convey the presenter’s ideas to others.

“Most presentations today are like playing tennis with someone who has a large basket of balls and isn’t going to stop serving until the basket is empty, regardless of whether you show any interest in hitting one back,” Bergman explains. “In such situations, if you came to practice service returns, you might be interested in playing along. But if you came to play a game of tennis, it won’t take long before you find something else to do.

“If the audience is reading, writing, texting, scanning their social media feed, sending an e-mail or reading a document, they cannot be listening. And, ultimately, if they’re not listening, what on earth is the point?”

One Bucket at a Time is available from Amazon, Kindle and Apple Books.

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