Kelly Vandever - Communications for Everyone

Presenting on Topics No One Wants to Hear About? Create Your Own Zombie Apocalypse ala the CDC!

In Presentation Tips on May 26, 2011 at 11:46 am

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What's the Zombie Apocalypse Equivalent for Your Presentation?

I don’t know who’s idea it was to create a CDC campaign based on the Zombie Apocalypse but I think the idea was BRILLIANT!

Think about it.  They took a subject that we all know is good for us but which we don’t really like to do anything about it – preparing for natural and man-made disasters –– and turned it into a pile of fun!

People have struggled to do presentations on topics that while they find interesting and important but that they worry their audiences will resist or be bored by.  As a presentation skills trainer and coach, I struggled with what to tell people.

I do believe being passionate and energetic about your subject helps make it more engaging for your audience.  And I’ve helped clients create fun game-like activities to engage their audiences.  But I think the CDCs approach, appealing to the campy, pop-culture, fun side of audiences is terrific.

I could see a disaster preparedness speaker taking the zombie metaphor through and entire presentation and walk through the steps to prepare to protect yourself in the zombie apocalypse or other disaster.  Could you see that being more engaging than just straight out guilt or fear as a motivator?  I love it!

What’s Your Challenging Subject that You Need to Speak On?

What’s the topic you want to address with your audiences that you think they’ll resist?  What makes them want to push away?  Can you come up with your version of the zombie apocalypse to find a fun way to engage and entertain your audience?  Need to talk about planning for retirement?  Vampire live forever… how do they fund their estates?   Need to make a presentation to management about upgrading equipment?  Can you turn that into a super hero story like the X-men?  Sure these are serious topics.  But could a little campiness help get our message across better?  In an attention-deficit, entertain-me-now, wait-while-I-post-that-on-Facebook kind of world, maybe we need to think about getting a little goofy.

What Do You Think?  Are You Willing to Find a Zombie Apocalypse for Your Subject Matter?  Want Help Finding It?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!  Even more, I’d like to see how we can help each other brain-storm ideas!  Add your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section!

  1. “In an attention-deficit, entertain-me-now, wait-while-I-post-that-on-Facebook kind of world, maybe we need to think about getting a little goofy.”

    I loved your ending, Kelly. We have to up our creative game b/c we are competing with so many distractions. People are just not content to sit through a presentation unless it’s relatable, and often, fun.

    Hmmm…the only presentation I did that comes to mind is when a group of school social workers were asked to present to the incoming MSW (Master of Social Work) interns from the local universities. Rather than drone on for 10 minutes about the various job duties we were assigned at our schools (as my brethren did), I put together a skit that highlighted a day in the life of a school social worker. I enlisted my friends/colleagues, and it went over really well. Of course, we condensed the worst-case scenarios into the brief presentation, but the interns got it on a deeper level. They appreciated the humor and creativity, according to the seminar evals…

    Of course, not everyone feels comfortable acting out a scene, or dressing up like a super-hero….:).

    • Linda – Love your example with the skit and the social worker class! I bet it resonated so much better with the students than a job duties recitation. Who wouldn’t want to wear a cape?! Thanks for sharing! Kelly

  2. So – what would you do with an audience full of couples – the presentation being on married sex? The vampire thing has potential!

    Now I know why I feel such a good connection with you – you think campy is cool too!

    Thanks for the post!

    • Miriam –

      LOL! Campy rules!

      Married couples on married sex… That may be plenty all to itself!

      I agree – vampires has potential … sucking the life out of the marriage could work… though with a vampire it implies one villain, one victim so that may not be what you’re going for…

      Or maybe, it could all be related to a different horror movie creature versus happily ever after…
      Vampires… one person is a giver, one is a taker
      Werewolves … mild mannered by day, an animal after dark
      Zombie… going through life without emotions… eating away at the brain…
      Ghost… barely there, almost invisible…
      OK, now I’m depressing myself! But maybe you could have some fun with it!

      Or maybe different genres of movies each associated with a type of sex life?
      Romantic comedy
      Action adventure
      Horror flick

      I hope others chime in! I’d love to see what create ideas they come up with!

      Thanks for adding to the conversation, Miriam!


      • Wow! This has so much potential! DEFINITE material for a blog post – especially the sex style being related to a movie genre! Love the documentary one.

  3. Great point,Kelly. Today everything is about the entertainment factor, the need to come at information from a new angle, and reaching audiences through intriguig metaphors that get them to think uniquely. Love your example and message. Thanks, ~Dawn

  4. Great idea Kelly!

    I think it’s funny that in working with children and engaging in play therapy, I am asked to find the metaphor to connect with kids all day long; but if you put me in front of a group of adults, I am all about being Mr. Serious and addressing the facts…

    I see several opportunities to use this in my work with individuals and couples – one client even guided me into asking him about what X-man he would be, but I didn’t take the bait! Next time, we are talking about superheroes!

    And if there is a married-sex vampire presentation in the works; count me in! That sounds more like the next Broadway hit!

    • Dan – I’m glad you found it helpful! Better living through superherodom! Kelly

  5. Cool post,
    As a couples therapy it is always hard to get the point across that we can’t sit and wait for the other to do the changing. Perhaps an image of two zombies finger pointing falling apart ….ugh, not a pretty picture.

    • Irene – LOL. Not a pretty picture indeed! But effective! Yikes! Thanks for chiming in! Kelly

  6. Today’s attention span does seem to be shorter but it’s always a challenge to keep people engaged and learning. Lectures and bullet points just don’t do. Stories (or skits) do; as well as other interactive exercises. People learn if we can connect on the zombie feeling level. Good post Kelly.

    • Thanks, Cherry. I agree… guess we’ve been spoiled by the rich media everywhere. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we like more fun and involvement when we’re in the audience too!

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