Communication Lessons from Jamie Oliver


If you make presentations, need to persuade people and want to be impactful and memorable in your communication, watch Jamie Oliver for a few lessons on how to do it because he does two things really well. Firstly, he knows how he wants you to feel after his presentation. And secondly, he helps you to remember it.

Specifically, I am talking about his use of visuals aids. A visual aid would be defined as anything physical or electronic you use to help enhance or illustrate your point. Jamie did a TedTalk a few years ago in the US. He trotted out a wheelbarrow full of sugar and tipped it all out on to the stage to illustrate how many sugar cubes an average child would consume from flavoured milk during five years of school.

With thousands of sugar cubes scattered across the stage, and a small dust cloud rising from the aggressive thrust of the upending, impact and memorability was achieved.

He repeated this thumping use of visual aids in a Channel 4 programme he made called Sugar Rush. The programme was about the destructive effects diabetes (through excessive sugar) is having on our nation. He assembled a group of 20 or so Chief Executives from the high street food and beverage industry to ask for their help.

Testament to the eye-opening nature of his programmes, my eyes were opened to the fact that severe type 2 diabetes can lead to a loss of eyesight, and limb amputations! I just didn’t know that. So what does Jamie do? He piles up 130 fake lower limbs and presents his case for a sugary drinks tax to his peers. Below is his opening statement.

The single biggest reason for children going under general anaesthetic is multiple teeth extraction. Here is a pile of 130 plastic legs and this represents the expected amount of amputations in Britain each week, just from diabetes: 7000 a year. And it’s just not acceptable.

That is a strong opening with impact. But I would like to highlight why anyone would use any sort of visual aid in the first place: The answer? To hammer home a point and make it memorable.

Lessons from Jamie:

  • Spend time considering how you want your listeners to feel and what they should remember permanently.
  • If you use a visual aid, it should be to hammer home the main message and help your audience remember it. Ever after.

The visual aid of choice for most business presentations is PowerPoint. The programme has its place but PowerPoint faithfuls should ask the question: does the way you are using it enhance or illustrate the point better for the audience?

Invariably, I’m afraid PowerPoint doesn’t. How many word slides or bullet points can you remember from the PowerPoint presentations have you sat through? You would be doing well to remember 1%. When it comes to impact and memorability, words and slides are not the answer.

At Black Isle, we coach presenters how to maximise impact with visual aids and to make the most effective use of PowerPoint and other presentation programs. Contact Black Isle to learn more about how your use of visual aids can compliment and enhance your presentations.