A Framework for Impactful Presentations
How can insights from the world of improv performance lead to better presentations? We asked Caricia Catalani, Senior Design Director at Pear Therapeutics, to share her deep experience in creating radical, participatory, and even beautiful ways to improve health. Caricia focuses on making healthcare more human-centered. She incorporates techniques from improvisational hip-hop comedy group Freestyle Love Supreme to further her design practice. Based on her work on more than one hundred healthcare projects in 28 countries, below are five key elements Caricia uses to craft impactful presentations.
Listen to the full podcast episode on the Creative Confidence Podcast to hear Caricia talk about her quick tips on improving your presentation skills, her own personal story that inspired her to work in healthcare, and how to overcome hurdles in innovation with storytelling techniques.
“One of the most important things we can all do to be better presenters is to show up fully present, awake, and ready to play.” — Caricia Catalani
It can be hard to show up fully present when there are so many distractions around us. Maybe you’re coming out of a stressful meeting or worrying about the health of a family member. Caricia suggests trying an exercise like Lion Mouse. First, hold up your hands like lion claws and make yourself feel really big, then make your mouth huge and roar like a lion. Now, make your fingers small next to you, squeeze your nose and mouth together, and make tiny squeak noises like a mouse. After going through each of these five times, you’ll start to feel warmed up, loose, and present in the moment.
“Originality is about finding your authentic voice and bringing your real self to your storytelling.” — Caricia Catalani
Your authentic voice is the thing that only you can bring to your stories. When it comes to our work, many of us talk about what we do, but not why we do it. What are you in it for? Practice the 90-second version of why you do the work that you do, and make sure the story is authentic to you and not a version that anyone else could tell. When you bring originality into your story, you build trust by sharing who you are with others.
“How do we center others’ voices and be better scene partners, better allies, better audiences?” — Caricia Catalani
Doing improv requires performers to use their words and body language to share space with other people. Oftentimes it’s not about being front stage, but rather about being a good scene partner who brings forward other voices. In presentations, inclusion is about involving your audience in the story. As a leader or presenter, being vulnerable in your stories is one way that you can create space for others to tell their own vulnerable stories. And as a listener, being welcoming, attentive, and ready, as if you’re ready to catch a ball from the speaker, creates the opportunity for deeper connection.
“Narrative is the story spine—whether it’s a 60-second story or an hour-long story.” — Caricia Catalani
The narrative element of presentations is what most people are familiar with. It’s the story arc that gives a structure or formula to something that otherwise might feel abstract. Caricia uses the Pixar story spine, which can apply to many different lengths and formats. For the story of her journey to a career in healthcare, which she shares in the podcast, she fills in the blanks: “Once upon a time _____. Every day _____. Until one day _____. Because of that _____. Until finally _____.”
“Transformation is about the change you want to inspire in people. What do you want to stick with them?” — Caricia Catalani
Think about how you want your audience to feel or act after your presentation. Are you hoping to motivate or to educate? Do you want people to feel reflective or passionate? One tip is using words that resonate with your audience—for example, specific marketing terms for a meeting with marketing leadership—to explain and bring to life the things you care about. Focusing on the change you want your listeners to go through will help you to maximize the impact of your presentation.
About The Speaker
Caricia Catalani, Senior Design Director at Pear Therapeutics
Caricia is a Senior Design Director at Pear Therapeutics, where she’s leading a team to build prescription digital therapeutics to help people suffering from substance use disorders.
She has worked on over 100 health projects in 28 countries, using a human-centered design approach to focus on radical, participatory, and even beautiful ways to improve health. Previously, Caricia was a Design Director at IDEO and Professor at the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley.
Learn how to create presentations that are both meaningful and memorable (and hear more from Caricia) in our course Impactful Presentations.
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