Thoughtful Thursdays: Drinking from the Firehose

hit with a firehose of information

“Hit with a Firehose”

When you prepare a speech, presentation, or webinar for your clients and prospects, how do you structure your information?

Many presenters do not take the time to carefully create a structure for their information. No doubt about it, it does take time!

A well-structured and well-crafted presentation does not get written overnight. Mark Twain said (partly in jest), “It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”

The Firehose Metaphor

Pretending that you’re offering your audience super value by ‘hitting them with the firehose’ doesn’t justify your lack of proper planning!  Let’s clarify what this metaphor really means:

The pressure of water coming from a firehose usually ranges from 100 psi (pounds per square inch) to 250 psi.   That is enough force to knock people down and enough to cause serious internal injuries!  Does that sound like great value to you?  If you had a firehose aimed at you, you wouldn’t be trying to drink from it, you’d be trying to run away from it as fast as possible!

Why do you need structure?

Providing a clear structure for your message helps your audience to more easily process and store that information in a way that they’ll be able to evaluate it and make a decision to take action after consuming your content.

When your structure is unclear or when you don’t stick to that structure, your audience ends up with scattered bits of input that are difficult to tie together. This is typically when the audience feels overwhelmed.

For the most part, if a presenter is cramming too much information into their talk it’s because:  1) they haven’t taken the time to select the right amount of information for the length of their talk and 2) they believe all their ideas are so important that they haven’t prioritized what they really need to tell you now versus what can wait.

Providing Great Value

There is a prevalent myth among some speakers, trainers, and information marketers that flooding their audience with lots of information means they have over-delivered and provided great value. But a flood of information that’s difficult to process and put to use is not really valuable.

In order to make use of that information, a reader, listener, or viewer would need to spend quite a bit of time reviewing notes from a live training or re-reading/re-watching the material, and they would need to do so within a day or two before most of the initial information fades from their mind.

In effect, the presenter has dumped a pile of raw materials in the room and said to the audience, ‘Here! You make something useful out of all this. But I’m too busy to refine it for you.’

Some speakers, trainers, and marketers seem proud of how they have hit their audience with a firehose of information, like it proves how much they know. But they are often the same ones who complain about how few of their audience members actually implement any of the information they’ve delivered through that firehose!

Unfortunately, these experts have yet to figure out that they could – and, in my opinion, should – do much more to help their audience process all that new information and take action to apply it in their lives.

Some ways to help your audience process information include:

  • breaking it down into bite-sized chunks
  • defining a clear structure that helps the audience keep track of where they are in your presentation
  • using variety, storytelling, and visual images for delivery
  • respecting the limits of your audience’s working memory

What do you think? Is it hard for you to absorb all that information when a speaker gives you so much? Or do you feel like they have given you great value — over-delivered — when they hit you with the firehose? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

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