How Parts Impact the Whole: Life Lessons for Presentations

Recently I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a professional Christmas Symphony and Choir Concert, complete with the traditional carols and hymns to usher all who were there into the holiday spirit. The concert was a stunning success, as evidenced by the thousands of attendees visibly smiling and laughing–including myself–as we exited the concert hall still humming the songs in our heads.

The positive energy during and after the concert was simply palpable!

What struck me most about this particular concert, however, was the sheer volume of participants who comprised the musical ensemble, and yet, how each participant’s ability to sing, play, and conduct ultimately contributed to  . . . “one voice.”

There was a 100-piece orchestra with the usual diverse representation between strings, brass, and percussion. They were joined by a 200-person choir, comprised of Symphony Choir members, youth choirs, and other adult choirs. Additionally, there were professional guest soloists who joined the production on tour, and of course, last but not least, the conductor leading them all.

While the diversity within this impressive group of musicians is clear, there is obviously more than meets the eye. For example, in addition to the instrumentalists, soloists, choir members, and the conductor, there were also lighting specialists, audio technicians, stage design, stage manager, etc. and other specialists at work who also contributed to the ultimate “one voice” in a variety of ways.

Yet regardless of the wide spectrum of diversity within the ensemble, as each one came together to play, sing, light the stage, or conduct, their efforts became “one” song. Each song, each melody line reached the audience’s ears as one, while its members contributed in their own unique ways. And yet, the impact of the resulting impact was incredibly moving to the audience.

In nature, we also see many examples of the whole and its parts, and the parts and its whole. In science, the big bang delivered amazing parts from what was formerly “one” in form, the elegant minutia of a flower eventually becomes one with the soil after it dissolves, and a healthy forest ecosystem relies on a wide variety of species, trees, and smaller organisms to maintain a thriving forest environment to comprise its “whole.”

When we design and deliver impactful presentations for audiences, we follow this same guideline that life and nature model for us. There are many parts and elements that work together in a presentation to comprise the “whole”; that is, the overarching effect on your audience.

Some of the variables that comprise a successful presentation include:  a catchy opener or hook; knowing your audience and where they stand on your topic; being attentive to the speaking context around the presentation; being clear on your main idea and the effect you want to have on your audience; including supporting material with your main ideas; using visual and verbal transitions to flow from section to section; allowing natural humor to emerge; using information and message design to shape handouts for audience reference, polishing delivery skills to keep an audience engaged; designing and placing visuals where the content needs more clarity, summarizing key points, and closing your presentation with a relevant and memorable lasting impression that leaves your audience wanting more–to name a few.

So, the “whole” in the context of presentations is the overarching effect you have on your audience. Similar to a full musical ensemble, each contributing part of a presentation works in tandem with the other elements to leave an audience impression. What effects are you targeting for your audience? Stay tuned . . .

Remember, attention to excellence in each part contributes to the overall excellence of the whole. Every element contributes to the greater impact.

Happy Holidays and happy presenting everyone!

What say you?

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