Presentation lessons from Jack the Ripper's Walk
During a trip to London with my family, I had the pleasure of participating in what's known as a Jack the Ripper walk.
At a designated spot overlooking the Tower of London, we met our affable Cockney guide, Pete. He was a character, our Pete, and he would have looked out of place in most boardrooms, training rooms and classrooms.
But the communication skills he demonstrated were exceptional, and should be envied and emulated by anyone who has to prepare and deliver presentations to others. We can all learn from “our Pete.”
Pete used statistics sparingly
After he gathered his flock, he led us to our first stop—the remains of the old Roman wall that has traditionally divided London's east-enders from the rest of the city. "In 1888, half the children born on the east side of this wall didn't survive until their first birthday," Pete told us. "It was said that, for every 100 yards you traveled east, life expectancy dropped by a year."
Pete knows that statistics should be to presentations as spice is to a meal—used sparingly.
Pete told stories well
To illustrate his love of history, he told us a story of traveling to Hadrian's Wall as a school boy. (Hadrian's Wall is the Roman wall that has traditionally separated England from Scotland.)
It was not a pleasant field trip, Pete informed us. It was raining. It was cold. He was miserable.
He was walking along the wall when he came to some Latin graffiti scratched into its side. He got out a piece of paper and his pencil, and rubbed the inscription so he could bring it to his Latin teacher.
When the Latin teacher read the inscription, he smiled. "You didn't enjoy yourself at Hadrian's Wall, did you," the teacher said. "No, sir," Pete replied.
"Apparently a man named Devinius wasn't enjoying himself either."
Pete clearly stated outcomes up front
Within a minute or two of gathering us together, Pete told us he hoped we would gain two two things. First, he wanted us to learn more about life in late 19-century London, the city of his birth. Second, he wanted us to better understand why he’s so proud to call London his home.
We gained both, in spades.
Pete knew that pausing is important for him and us
Pete paused to think before speaking. This enabled him to choose his words carefully so that each word out of his mouth added value.
Pete paused after he spoke. This allowed us to think about what he’d just said. He allowed us to process one thought before giving us another. He didn’t try to overload us with information. The entire presentation was two-way and receiver-driven, while adhering to the principle of “less is more.”
Pete used visuals sparingly, and well
When he brought us to a new location, he would introduce it and give us time to look at it. “This is not where one of the murders happened,” he told us in one case. “But if we went there now, you’d all be disappointed because it’s a parking lot. This is what London would have looked like in Jack’s time.”
He would pause to allow us to look around and let our imaginations work. When we started coming back to him, he continued his presentation.
He showed half a dozen pictures from his smartphone for emphasis. But again, he would tell us what we were going to see, then showed it. When he showed the picture, he moved the phone from person to person around the group, letting us absorb it. During those times, he never said a word.
Pete answered questions clearly and concisely
While he was always polite, he thankfully kept his answers short. This enabled many of us to ask a lot of questions. We learned from each other’s curiosity, which only added to the educational experience for everyone.
Pete demonstrated excellent presentation and communication skills. He provided lessons of value that could be applied to every boardroom, training room, meeting room, conference hall and lecture hall on the planet.
So, in the days beyond COVID-19, if you’re ever in London, look up our Pete and join him on his walk.
For the price of a movie ticket and pop, you’ll gain insight into parts of London that most people don’t see. You’ll begin to share Pete’s love for his city.
And, if you watch Pete at work, you’ll learn about communicating effectively with others during all types of presentations from one of the most unlikely but effective of sources.