There are a lot of books on presentation skills and a multitude on communication in business environment. However there is strikingly little scientific research done in the field of presentations in a business environment.
Cognitive psychology :
There is a lot of scientific work done in the last two decades on cognitive psychology and how our brain functions. When reading all leading authors, it always struck me a/ how little we still know about how the brain works and b/ how recent most of that knowledge is. It is a very interesting subject. But most of that work also remains quite theoretical and it is not always clear what we can learn from those insights in our professional or personal lives. One author who succeeds remarkably well in explaining the functioning of our brain and drawing interesting applicable conclusions is John Medina. I would advise all to read his book “brain rules”.
Only quite recently there are good quality studies on presentations. (Casteleyn 2013). And in the last 15 years or so there has been very interesting scientific work in the area of multimedia communication (and presentations is a form of multimedia communication). The authority in that field is undoubtedly Mayer. These studies and books are very interesting for communication professionals. I would certainly advise other communication professionals to read the works from Mayer.
There are also hundreds of papers and scientific studies with some relevance for our presentation practice. In preparation of the book, I have looked through some 250 publications and integrated insights of some 80 articles in the book. Some of that research is quite remarkable and very interesting.
Academic environment :
However, most of those scientific studies have been conducted in an academic environment. Although the results of this scientific work is very valuable, application to the business environment remains an extrapolation, for presentations in a business environment are fundamentally different in some respects. Presentations in a business environment are much more diverse and complex in their objectives, settings, problems, motivations (see table).
It often struck me that the researchers don’t look at applications in business environment, although that has such a relevance and potential added value. I understand the need for fundamental research, but the relevant and valuable translation into the business environment remains very ‘open’.
There certainly is room for mcuh more scientific work in this area. And that work will help worldwide economies to save many billion dollars, if we just can improve the communication through presentations marginally.
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( Deep Dive 2014-03 )