Back in the fifties, when the concept of a high speed carriageway was first envisaged, the planners thought, as they were intended to enable people to get from A to B as quickly as possible, that they should make motorways as straight as possible. The presumption was that speed and corners do not go well together.
Building them in straight lines would minimise the distance travelled and would reduce the number of accidents, because people would be able to see a long way in front of them and not have to slow down to negotiate bends in the road. Here in the UK, the section of the M1 as it goes north out of London, is a classic example of this style of design. It goes in a straight-line up hill and down dale for miles.
However, there are problems with this style of road design. Primarily, it is boring. Because you can see for miles ahead, you think you know exactly what is coming, and can easily lose concentration. You start thinking about other things rather than driving, some people may even start to fall asleep.
On a busy Friday evening, coming out of London on the M1, all you can see is mile upon mile of brake lights in front of you. There is little so dispiriting.
Modern highways are designed with very few straight sections, they meander across the countryside, frequently turning from side to side. Despite what you may think, this is not the effect of the influential and politically astute landowners who lobbied against the proposed routes of the new highway.
Over the years, highway designers have learnt that sweeping curves make the road more interesting. The bends mean that drivers need to concentrate more, which keeps them more alert. As an added bonus, if you are stuck in a traffic jam, there is always the optimistic view that it will clear just round the next bend, rather than knowing that it goes on and on for miles. So bends are actually safer than straight roads and the journey seem to pass more quickly.
The same design components apply when creating an effective presentation.
Don’t just rush from the start straight to the finish, take people on a journey. Add a few twists and turns, so that your audience discovers new things along the way. Back up your assertions, with a personal story that illustrates the point that you are making. People usually talk with more enthusiasm when they are recounting a personal anecdote, which in turn makes your presentation more interesting to your audience.
So, don’t give people the opportunity to fall asleep in your presentations, take then on a journey of discovery.