The "Monta Method"
October 02, 2005
In addition to the Takahashi Method, there is another presentation method in Japan that is in the early stages of getting some buzz: "The Monta Method."
What, you never heard of the "Monta Method" of presenting? Well, you are not alone. Most Japanese have not heard of this slide presentation method, even though the method is based on the analog presentation style of a famous Japanese TV personality, Mino Monta.
Like the Takahashi Method, the "Monta Method" was introduced first by a knowledge worker in the tech field here in Japan. Mr. Shinichiro Oba, a director in a Japanese IT company didn't invent the technique but he was the first to put a name to it and apply Mr. Monta's analog techniques from his TV programs to the ubiquitous digital PowerPoint (in his case, Keynote) presentations in the world of business, research, and academia.
A little background
Mino Monta — a Japanese version of America's Regis Philbin — is one of the most popular TV personalities in Japan. He has a daily TV show, aimed primarily at housewives, were he often introduces new trends, health tips, celebrity gossip, etc. When he introduces a new topic he typically takes a seat at a table and holds up a poster board filled with different sentences but with many parts covered with strips of paper. Other times he may stand next to a larger board filled with questions and answers. The answers (and sometimes the questions too) are covered by adhesive strips. When he is ready to give the answer, he can easily peal off the strip revealing the answer, much to the surprise and amusement of the audience.
Mino Monta is not the only TV personality to use the technique. In fact the approach of showing a sentence with parts of it covered or the answer to the question covered is a popular presentation technique on Japanese TV talk shows, news broadcasts, and educational programs. This is a variation of the "fill in the blank" type of exam question so common in Japanese schools.
On his blog, Shinichiro Oba explains in Japanese the details, advantages and disadvantages of the "Monta Method." Because some words or answers are hidden, the audience is more interested and curious about what's on the other side of the strip of paper. Oba says it is similar to the way people become more curious about adult videos in Japan because the "naughty bits" are blurred out with a mosaic filter. He implies that when you hide parts of text blocks or graphics on a screen it elicits a similar kind of curiosity in the audience (well, perhaps a slightly different kind...but you get his idea).
You can see his Keynote presentation on the Monta Method in Quicktime. (Just click on the video image to advance to the next slide.) Even if you do not read Japanese, you can get a feel for his adaptation of Mr. Monta's analog style to slideware.
Compared with the Takahashi Method, Oba says, the Monta Method is more conversational. It's certainly true that asking questions to the audience and encouraging them to get involved with you and your visuals is very effective for making emotional connections and keeping people engaged with you and your material. Typical "PowerPoint presentations" tend to talk at people rather than with them.
Oba suggests that if all your slides were to follow the Monta Method, your printed slides could make a reasonable (though not perfect) "handout" since the Q & A format of the slide content can be understood without the presenter present.
Oba notes that one downside of the method is that some audiences may feel the technique is too much like "teaching" and there is a risk of appearing to talk down to an audience if you are not careful.
Your mileage may very
Of course, Oba is quick to point out that your success with this method depends very much on "TPO" (Time Place Occasion, a common Japanese expression). This idea of your particular results with a technique being very much dependent on TPO (i.e., your unique circumstance/situation) sounds a bit Zen-like, does it not? In Zen we learn that technique alone is not enough and we must be careful never to blindly follow rules or technique. Technique is important (whether in pursuit of enlightenment, better presentation skills, or a better backhand in tennis). But we must live in the real world and adjust and remain fluid and flexible with an eye to our unique situation.
So give the "Monta Method" a try if you think it may be appropriate. It is quite easy to do with PowerPoint or Keynote. For many situations, it may be better to use this method or technique only occasionally during the course of your talk to break things up and get the audience involved. It is not necessary to have your entire presentation design based on this method.
I have been using variations of this method in parts of my presentations for years. For example, take a look at my sample slides from this post from July where I compare speeches by Lincoln and Everett. Here you can see that I did not hide information, but I revealed it after I asked the audience for the answer or their opinion. I usually use this kind of approach often in a presentation. The longer the presentation, the more important this kind of technique can be.
This is a clever way to implement an old method. It certainly makes presentations easier to match "fill-in-the-blanks" handouts.
Posted by: Daniel J. Lewis | October 04, 2005 at 05:12 AM