Do you need to Know How to Talk to an Audience for More than 2 Hours?
To answer this, we ask you three questions:
• Can you hold a conversation with one or several friends over coffee for 2 hours?
• Can you be in a theater for 2 hours and pay attention to the movie the entire time?
• Can you read a novel for more than 2 hours without thinking about anything else?
If your answers to these three questions are YES, then you have everything you need to talk to an audience for more than 2 hours and be sure that audience will be interested the entire time in you and what you’re presenting.
• Coffee Chat: A presentation, even if it’s a business presentation, doesn’t have to focus on facts, facts and more facts. It should instead focus on the stories behind those facts. We make an analogy here to a conversation with a friend over coffee, because it is the type of interaction we should structure our presentation to afford. Along with facts and charts, we need to bring in the human part of a story to support the ideas, as if we were telling our presentation to a friend in a coffee shop. We should also try to interact with members of the audience, look them in the eye, smile at them, show that we’re human and close to them, making them feel a part of the presentation itself. If we do this, our audiences will feel much closer to us, as presenters and as people, and to our stories. And this will make them more attentive and interested. Meanwhile, we, the presenter, will be at ease and able to speak in a more fluent and colloquial manner, not so nervous, and so the presentation can be a more relaxed and interactive event.
• Movie: Have you ever seen a movie that starts well, continues all right, then continues all right again and finishes well, too? No, you haven’t. If there were such a movie, nobody would be interested, right? What happens in movies is this: at the beginning we’re presented with a stable situation that quickly ceases to be stable. Then several adventures take place as characters attempt to restore the stability that was lost. Toward the end there is a climax, or high point of tension and excitement, and in the end something changes yet again and we’re back to a new situation of stability. The point here is that movies present difficulties, problems, challenges, and then present moments of realization, when the challenges are overcome. But moments of victory that don’t have conflict preceding are empty moments with no impact or emotion. This is why it’s so important that a presentation explores the challenges, the adversity and the doubts and then explains how those challenges could be dealt with and overcome. Even in the case of a corporate presentation – presenting a new project, a new product or a new idea – it’s always possible to do this, and it’s essential to tell the story with all its ups and downs.
• Novel: You know those novels full of descriptive moments, when the tone of a speech is always the same, when monotony takes over the story because nothing is happening? This kind of novel is boring, right? Well, exactly the same thing happens when in a presentation the presenter only presents numbers, charts and facts and makes no connection between them. People end up losing interest. On the other hand, those novels that are full of action, full of moments of contrast and ups and downs, with rich characters who make decisions, who fall, who cry and get up again…. Those novels can keep us reading for hours and even days. So it’s precisely from this type of novel that we should get our inspiration. A presentation also needs action, contrasts, ups and downs and characters that are vivid. What a presentation needs is a good story to support the facts and hold the attention of the audience for 2 hours or more.
So, in your next presentation be sure to create an interesting story, one in which the difficulties and challenges are presented, and wrap everything in a simple format and an easy delivery, as if you’re chatting with friends, and see how fast that 2 hours will fly by and how interested your audience will stay.