Using the Experience Canvas for Presentation Designs
At Jargogle, we created the Experience Canvas for discussing and planning events in a holistic way. “Experiences” is a broad category – it may mean a user interaction with a product or service, an event like a birthday party or a sports tournament, a workshop, a presentation, or any other moment where a user, customer, or audience member interacts with a planned artifice.
In this article, we discuss how the Experience Canvas can be used for planning presentations.
The core aspect of the Experience Canvas’ value is its ability to help us consider not only the narrative of the presentation itself, but the meta-experience that surrounds a presentation. When “design” anything, we must first consider the context that the designed object will live in. In the context of a presentation – this means considering who the presentation is for, and how they understand the world. Because narrative is always about “change” we must also consider the change that we want to occur as a result of this presentation in both abstract and concrete terms.
Use the Experience Canvas as a conversation piece for discussions with presenters or key stakeholders before a major presentation.
For example, in a past job, I had a presentation to prepare for a joint project between the design team and the marketing team. While I knew the design team well, I hadn’t spent much time working with the head of marketing or the CEO and other major stakeholders I would present to. I also didn’t have an understanding of the underlying political forces at play in the situation, and the mental models of each audience member.
Before starting to build the presentation, I spent some time working around the canvas with my boss and a few other stakeholders to round out my understanding of the audience and talk through some of the strategies that would get us to a successful outcome. They called attention to both a lot of incorrect assumptions about my audience’s understanding of the topic, as well as some underlying frictions in the company that should be handled delicately in my presentation.
After chatting with stakeholders, my teammate and I used the canvas to sharpen our plan for the presentation, helping us clear up some misalignments before sinking time into building slides and talking points that wouldn’t flow well.
I often find that just five or ten minutes of discussion around the canvas can save hours of time building slides or planning narratives.
The Experience Canvas
Recall that the Experience Canvas consists of a grid with “Feeling, Thinking, Doing” across the top axis, and an adaptation of the “Three Act Structure” along the horizontal axis. This structure, enables us to consider and discuss our audience members’ feelings and behaviors at each point in the process so we can really focus on our change goal.
The right and left-most sections of the canvas help us plan the “before” and “after” for the presentation – this is where we will begin.
< Example> As an example, lets say that we’re building a presentation to show…
Start with the End
Every presentation should have a specific goal – an affect we want to have on our audience, and a set of actions or results that they should take((This is a good time to consider whether a presentation is really the best way to get your goals across, or whether an email or some other asynchronous communication would suffice.)).
Start in the bottom right corner with the “Doing After” box and write a few bullet points about what you want your audience to do after your presentation. Don’t worry about creating an exhaustive list (you can always come back later), but try to get at least 2-3 specific actions that your presentation should inspire your audience to take.
TIP: Try to be really specific. If you’re pitching your startup to investors for capital, the end goal may be to get a big sum of money deposited into your bank account – but that isn’t going to happen right after your presentation. Maybe some After Doing goals are “schedule follow up meeting to discuss details” or “schedule a meeting with a senior partner.”
Thinking After and Feeling After
Next, work your way up to the Thinking After and Feeling After boxes.
The Thinking After box should focus on how you want your audience to understand thinkings which will lead them to take certain actions. What is the mental model that you want your audience to have? In other words, what is the mental model that will make it obvious to them that they should “do” the actions in your “Doing After” box?
< Example> for example…
The Feeling After box outlines the way your audience should feel at the end of your presentation. This box may feel a little strange at first, but there are a couple reasons it is important.
First, there is a wrong answer for this box: we never want our audience to be feeling “bored” after our presentation. The key to a good, productive presentation is to compel our audience toward some form of action – and emotion is the fuel for action. Filling in an emotion other than “bored” reminds us the reason we’re doing a presentation: to inspire action, and as we go through the process of planning our presentation, we’ll come back to our Feeling After box to make sure we’re on track.
Second, it isn’t always obvious the feelings we want our audience to feel. We usually want our audience to feel confident and excited about something we’re proposing – but in some cases, a feeling of fear will compel them to action. If we’re inspiring them to think in new ways, we may want to instill a sense of wonder or skepticism.
< Example> for example… I want them to fear X, but feel confidence in Y
Think seriously about this box – and if you’re working on a presentation with a group, make sure you align on it.
Then the Beginning
Audiences never enter a presentation as a clean slate – and its important that we don’t let ourselves believe that they do! Once we know how we want out audience to feel, think, and act after the presentation, its time to get honest with ourselves about where they are starting from. On this side of the canvas, I like to start with Thinking and Feeling.
Add some bullet points about how your audience is feeling about your topic before the presentation. If more than one audience member have different feelings, jot them both down.
For instance, in my presentation about a combined marketing and design team, I knew that there was already some tense relationships between the design director and the marketing director. Before seeing my proposal, may the marketing director feel threatened by this meeting? Would she come in as defensive? How about the CEO – who had to arbitrate disagreements between these two departments in the past? Junior resources from both departments would also be in the meeting – how would what feelings would they have as they walked in the meeting room door?
Mapping out these feelings before hand will help us remain mindful of them as we craft our narrative.
Next, add some bullet points about how your audience understands your topic now. Think about the background of your audience and their familiarity of the topic. How much jargon will they already understand? What past experiences would they have that have colored their view? If you’re presenting a new idea, think about how your audience sees things now. Do they know a lot or a little about your topic? How ingrained and attached to their existing knowledge may they have?
Before my presentation, I spent a little 1:1 time with each of the main stakeholders to understand their experiences and management philosophies. One stakeholder came from a background that emphasized collaboration to create the best results – another came from a background that emphasized competition between people of diverse backgrounds. Somehow, my presentation would need to have common appeal for both of these worldviews.
Finally, think about what your audience will be doing as they enter the room. Will they have their laptops in front of them to answer emails? Will they be sitting? Standing? Did they take any steps to prepare for this meetings before hand, such as reviewing some notes? Jot a few bullets down about this as well.
Finally, design the presentation