Show and tell: way to share info across borders

Have you ever noticed that we seek for complex solutions and yet simple things work incredible well? This short article describes one such a practice we call Show & Tell.

I guess you heard of Show and tell at school. Kids bring an item from their home and they present it to their classmates. They share what they learnt about and they share feelings and passion. They share something about themselves.

In complex projects we typically struggle to efficiently share knowledge and passion between us. Everybody is pretty focused on their area, team, tasks. Or the other extreme: everybody communicates with everyone and there are long, exhaustive meetings and you value 1 minute out of 1 hour meeting.

I saw the concept of Show and tell in Norway early this year. It was very similar to a pitch presentation that I saw normally at Start-up conferences and today, after many session we have conducted, I’m still impressed about its power and simplicity. Here is how it looks.

What is Show and tell in Business?

All people gathered at one place (an open space, kitchen) and a team representative presents 3-5min pitch + 2 min Q&A. The point is to rotate quickly between teams, ideally 3 persons within 30min time frame.

Typical process looks like:

  • Couple days before the meeting: people vote about topics, presenters are selected (e.g. via Slack dedicated channel)
  • One day before presentation: check of presenters, a pitch rehearsal
  • S&T day:
    • 10 min before: setup, pre-check
    • Start: an introduction (1-2min)
    • First presentation 3-5min
    • 1-2min Q&A – and the second presenter gets prepared
    • Second presentation 3-5min
    • 1-2min Q&A – and the third presenter gets prepared
    • Third presentation 3-5min
    • 1-2min Q&A
    • Wrap up, feedback, agree follow-up – who wants to continue in discussion

The pitch should present (ideally a real demo) about their current status or something they learnt and would like to share with others. The important question is: What is worth sharing?

Lessons learnt

I would like to share few important lessons we have learnt so far:

  1. The limited time is absolutely crucial; thanks to short time people put only relevant info into the presentation; the best time frame that works for us: 30min / 3 presentations. Who needs more info can agree follow-up meeting with a speaker afterwards.
  2. The preparation makes big difference – it’s totally different level of quality if people come prepared for presentation.
  3. Demo is worth of thousand words and if you see something, you believe it (skip boring slides). Focus on key scenario.
  4. Make it easy and comfortable to join the session – we prepare it at Open space where the whole team is located, or Canteen after rush hour (but people can still enjoy food), or an area where people flow from a lunch and can have a coffee.
  5. During / after lunch time makes it OK even when people are busy because they combine lunch / after lunch coffee with something useful.
  6. The flow – make it quick, seamless (presenters get prepared during Q&A), avoid any disruption – check out laptops upfront or avoid laptops. People must feel it is very efficient.

Next level – a communication with Business (Client)

Later we took the same concept and organized such a session with our Client to present innovations. Usually, IT gets pretty much isolated from market, customers, business.

We used the concept to present 4 selected innovations. It went perfect. The customer was really impressed (it was very efficient, well prepared) and crucial finding regarding one innovation happened:

  • Customer: “This is really great! We have been asking for it for last 3 years. How long will it take you?”
  • Developer: “One day. The platform already supports it.”
  • Customer: “What??? We have been planning ½ year project for it and this year we finally found a budget and you say it is already done and we could have it long time ago? I have really mixed feelings. Great that we had this meeting.”

It took ½ year to get a customer to this meeting. They didn’t see need for it before. Now we agreed regular S&T meetings with the business people.

It is all about communication

In our personal lives as well as business. But it is about efficient communication. We have been seeking for efficient ways of communication between people for 15 years – inside a company (across silos) as well as outside (with a customer / market, partner network, etc.)

If you need to know more, just leave us message and we can go deeper:

Photo by Richard Clyborne of Music Strive