Helping presentations achieve new heights
Eric Bergman, BPA, ABC, APR, MC, FCPRS

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Eric Bergman first became fascinated with the power of the spoken word in 1981. The professor of his presentations course at college was leading a team that was preparing a presentation for delivery in Baden-Baden, (West) Germany. The purpose of the presentation was to convince the International Olympic Committee to select Calgary as host of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games.

“We were given a peek inside the strategic process,” Eric recalls. “I'll never forget the moment I heard the news that Calgary had been selected to host the games. It was a defining moment of my career. I was hooked on the power of the spoken word. ”

Eric wrote his first speech for a senior government executive in 1983, less than a year after starting his communications career as a government public affairs officer. “It was a retirement speech, so it was fairly low risk,” he says. “But I worked almost five hours to craft that five minutes. I received a lovely note from the speaker, which I still have.”

He left government in September, 1985, to set out on his own as a freelance communication consultant. For the first eight to ten years of his freelance career, he wrote hundreds of speeches for executives in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, earning local, national and international awards for his work.

In the early 1990s, he noticed that when the speeches he had written were accompanied by slides, they were more difficult to absorb and retain. “The speeches were certainly more profitable with slides because we made money on the slides,” he concedes. “But there is no question they were ultimately more difficult to absorb.”

In 1992, after viewing a demonstration that separated the written word from the spoken, and the ensuing gain in communication effectiveness, he was hooked. He hasn’t looked at presentations the same way since.

For more than a quarter century, people have frequently asked why he doesn’t like slides. “It’s not that I don’t like slides,” he says. “And there is a time and place when slides are effective. But the time is not ‘always’ and the place is definitely not ‘everywhere’. Slides should support the speaker, not the other way around.”

He believes the best presentations are those for which slides are developed last, not first, if they’re needed at all. He feels that the habit of using slideware like PowerPoint or Keynote to develop content for presentations has led directly to the logical conclusion of ‘Death by PowerPoint’.

“When slides drive content, the result is itoo many slides with too much information on each,” he says. “Working memory is overloaded. Let’s be honest. The vast majority of the thirty to forty million presentations delivered today will be forgotten as soon as they’re over.”

With his book One Bucket at a Time, Eric encourages less presentation, more conversation. The book outlines a conversational approach that is based in science and decades of experience helping clients use presentations to achieve their personal and professional goals. His approach is called “a window to the future of this important human activity” by one of the world’s leading cognitive scientists.

Eric holds a bachelor of arts in communication studies and a two-year diploma in advertising and public relations. He received designations as an accredited business communicator (ABC) in 1991 and an accredited public relations practitioner (APR) in 1993. In 2002, he was named a master communicator (MC), which is the highest distinction that can be bestowed on a Canadian member of the International Association of Business Communicators. In 2015, he joined the College of Fellows of the Canadian Public Relations Society (FCPRS).

In his spare time, he and his partner enjoy exploring North America on his Honda Gold Wing GL1800.