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Bring Back Show Tell, Part 2

Don’t turn it into an overblown production. Keep it simple. Use existing project information. Let it be somewhat improvised and spontaneous. Let the team plan and select what to share.

By ALAN NICOL, Executive Member, AlanNicolSolutions LLC

To read part one of this two-part series, please click here. 

Consider the benefits that might come out of show-and-tell practices:

  1. Improving communication concerning active projects, people and teams.
  2. Showcasing best practices. (Nothing helps instill new methods like watching your peers succeed because they applied them.)
  3. Increasing the sense of urgency to do well and demonstrate high performance at show and tell.
  4. Inspiring confidence in people, teams and methods because of the problem-solving demonstrated at show and tell.
  5. Sharing ideas and inspiring innovation.
  6. Getting people excited about what they are doing, as well as what is going on in the organization.
  7. Inviting others to share insights and ideas to improve designs and solutions.
  8. Improving communications, performance, sharing of ideas, and confidence in other people and teams, which increases morale and productivity.

I’m sure there are other benefits that might come out of the practice that I haven’t experienced or thought of. Even so, the list above is reason enough for me to be willing to let things relax a little on a Friday afternoon for 30 minutes to an hour.

In keeping with a desire to get the most out of a show-and-tell practice for the least disruption in productivity, and to keep it constructive and fun, instead of burdensome and dreaded, here are some dos and don’ts.


  1. Keep the presentations short.
  2. Provide an atmosphere where participants and observers are encouraged to relax and enjoy, rather than challenge and argue. (My friend’s business, for example, offers beverages and happy hour-style snacks to make it both social and to encourage participation.)
  3. Make it fun.
  4. Talk about the challenges overcome, inventiveness and clever solutions.
  5. Show how methods or skills were successfully applied.
  6. Talk about the importance of the project to the business.
  7. Show off the team — it should be as much about people as it is about products.
  8. Invite everyone, not just local personnel or certain functions.
  9. Make it about success and demonstration, not about shortcomings or interrogations.
  10. Bring working parts, prototypes, designs, demonstrations and other hands-on elements whenever possible.


  1. Don’t require extra work to prepare presentations for the show and tell. Make the practice well-known to teams in advance of the event, so they can set aside slides, notes, drawings, parts, prototypes, analyses or lessons as they occur, and have them ready for show and tell when the time comes. It should take no more than 30 minutes to prepare.
  2. Don’t leave teams behind. It may not be practical in a global, diversified corporation to show every project to every employee, but do the best that is practical. If a team doesn’t get to show its effort, it will be perceived as being unworthy, and the whole benefit of morale and excitement will be lost.
  3. Don’t make the leader do the presenting. Allow the team to select its presenters. Encourage those who want to stand up and present the opportunity. Some will not want the spotlight, while some might benefit from the public speaking opportunity. Instead of mandating another responsibility for the project lead, use the opportunity to encourage or develop other team members.
  4. Don’t schedule the show and tell at a critical time for the team. Schedule it at a time when the team is waiting for test results, or for suppliers to finalize production readiness or some other slow/waiting period.
  5. Don’t turn the show and tell into a design review. Design reviews should be done in a particular way with a particular audience, not the whole business all at once. Show and tell should be about communication and fun.
  6. Don’t turn it into an overblown production. Keep it simple. Use existing project information. Let it be somewhat improvised and spontaneous. Let the team plan and select what to share to demonstrate its best elements. Don’t let it derail the project while people prepare.

A great deal of disappointment and angst that I experienced over the years might have been resolved through the practice of a show and tell of projects, designs and solutions. Give some thought to the benefits of communications, idea sharing, morale and innovation that might come from the practice.

If you decide, as I have, that the practice warrants some experiments and/or institution, then be sure to keep the disruption to a minimum. Don’t let it become an event that stops all progress while the team prepares.

I really believe that the benefits of a show-and-tell practice are numerous and profound. As my friend described his business’ practice to me, I wished that I had implemented the so-simple idea years ago. Take the idea to heart, and give it a try. Discover the benefits for yourself and for your group.

Stay wise, friends.

To read part one of this two-part series, please click here. What’s your take? Please feel free to comment below! For more information, please visit