Jan 25, 2009

Honda “Kicks Out the Ladder”: Lessons for Presenters

Honda has recently come up with 3 documentaries as part of their corporate campaign. One of the videos is 'Kicking out the Ladder'. It talks about how people at Honda take up tough challenges and keep raising the bar. Keep pushing themselves to the limit. It's a powerful documentary with immense emotional appeal. Watch the video here:




Why do we like this video? What can presenters learn from it and implement to leave their audience impressed? This post aims to answer exactly that.

1. Generate curiosity at the start
The documentary title is catchy: 'Kick out the ladder'. It creates curiosity. It gets the audience asking for more.

Lesson #1: Start with a catchy phrase. Every presentation has a central idea and you should give this 'idea' a name. Example, you are the brand manager and are presenting to the top management on why you want to try social media marketing to promote the brand in year 2009. You definitely have an interesting story. Suppose you call it ‘P2P Marketing’?

2. Engage the audience
The documentary starts with asking a few unknown faces what "Kick out the ladder" means to them. They are common people. They share their thoughts, which like anchors guide the audience’s thinking in the desired direction.

Lesson #2:
Take your phrase ‘P2P Marketing’ forward by throwing in some ‘thought anchors’. Adding some humor here would be a good idea. Instead of putting up these anchors on a slide, ask your audience what they think ‘P2P Marketing’ stands for. This way you secure 100% attention and involvement (which is often the biggest challenge for presenters).


3. Infuse life into your "idea"
The documentary answers what "Kick out the ladder" means through real life examples from Honda. From the abstract it has now come to reality. It introduces its characters along with the real life stories. It is here that we are told what the "Kick out the ladder" means.

Lesson #3:
Give examples which the audience can relate to and thus bring your idea to life. To take our brand manager example forward, you can show how the brand will be perceived post your ‘P2P Marketing’.


4. Let your images do the talking

Notice that when the characters speak in the video, the supporting images help us visualize the thought. When they talk about how small Greensberg is and its industries are failing; the visuals show absence of civilisation, empty rail tracks. You start visualizing and understanding what Greensberg is really like. The images compliment the idea and deliver it successfully.


Lesson #4:
Choose visuals which compliment the idea and take it forward. Humans understand better when oral communication is clubbed with visual aids. For a child learning English, A for Apple (with an image) is not the same as A for Apple without it. Also remember to choose Apples and not Anancondas which they can't relate to.


5. End on a solid note

Leave a lasting impression… End on a high… Reinforce the core idea at the end.

Very often you get to hear these tips. But how does one end on a solid note?

This video does that successfully.

"If I think back 15 years, I don't know I ever said, we can't do that. I just can't ever imagine saying that. I have always said, okay. I am not assuming I can do it, I am assuming WE can do it."


End your presentations on a strong note. The end must reinforce the central idea else the audience will lose the plot. Do not introduce new ideas at the end. After ending remain silent for a while. Let the audience think. Let the audience absorb the force.


Do you have any more observations from the video? Please leave a comment. If you use these lessons in your next presentation, share your experiences by writing to me.