That crucial moment is here. You are about to deliver a key presentation for your career. Starting now, time can be either your best friend or your worst enemy. You have just a few seconds to attract your audience. Eight seconds, to be more accurate, if you are dealing with a younger crowd.
This was what a research carried out last March by WGSN Mindset found out after studying Generation Z (the demographic cohort that includes individuals born between the late 1990’s and 2010). And, as you can probably imagine, social networks and smartphones carry most of the blame since they divert attention from the speaker. Now more than ever, people, especially youngsters, want to be connected to everything, which kills their focus. If the presenter fails to leverage the first few seconds, he runs the risk of being sidetracked by some WhatsApp discussion regarding the next happy hour.
A decision clocked by the second
How to win this battle, then? The secret is to give special attention to the first few minutes of your speech and surprise the audience right at the beginning. In what way? By studying your audience, the attendees, prior to the presentation. Find out their interests, what triggers their curiosity and what jokes amuse them.
Gathering previous knowledge will set the tone for the next step towards victory: showing promptly what is in it for them. Picture yourself in a meeting where you want to suggest a partnership. You might begin by saying the other company would benefit from the partnership since it would increase their profit in a department it is not doing so well. Additionally, if you are delivering a speech concerning people management, what about sharing a remarkable story most of the audience can relate to before getting into more technical details of that matter?
Show them straight away the advantages they might get from your proposal, or even unveil a piece of information that shows your speech is different from anything they have heard so far.
Emotion and Focus walk hand in hand
As time goes by, you must establish an emotional bond. After getting everyone’s attention with your first information or story, it is time to arouse empathy. Once you set up this connection, your listener will be more willing to concentrate on rational arguments you will present later, such as figures and statistics.
Storytelling is a great technique that helps bonding. Organize a narrative for your presentation and make it clear from the start. A story that gives rise to emotions is much more effective than some numbers on a screen.
You should also be aware of non-verbal communication. The moment you set foot on stage, smile, make eye contact and stand in neutral positions. Avoid arching your back, starring at the floor or being hard-faced. No one pays attention at someone who seems in distress. The body is loquacious and hence must be your ally.
When everybody knows your name
When meeting with or presenting for an acquainted audience, it is possible they might have some information regarding your talk. So, try to get to the point. The most technical information can be revealed swiftly. Change the order: offer your conclusion at the beginning of your presentation and, then, proceed with your arguments.
Bottom line: make the effort to always have your listener or audience in mind and work on your presentation focusing on their interests rather than only on yours. If you follow these tips, the fight for an audience’s attention will certainly be a less scary one.
In order to preparing a presentation, we have to be clear. All information available seems to be important. Sometimes, for many of us, it’s hard to distinguish a detail from the information that really matters.
Does the audience need to know all information about the topic? Are they familiarized with the topic? Is there any particular part of the presentation that can captivate the interest of the public?
When you identify your audience, it is possible to check what topics interest them. Otherwise, the presentation can end up with confused listeners who don’t know pay attention to the presenter or to the visual material.
In this post, we will share some tips to help you see clearly what is necessary to include on slides and what you must leave out from your presentation.
Customize the presentation according to the presenter.
It’s always good to remember that an efficient narrative is based on the audience’s characteristics. The focus should be on the public and on the process that you gonna use to show your ideas and, as a result, achieve better results.
The slides, however, should be prepared according to the presenter’s characteristics. The purpose is having clear information and the solution is present just some guidelines to direct the presenter. Either the slides and the presenter should make the subject more clear and easy to comprehend.
The visual support has a big roll in the success of the presentation, but don’t forget it is only complementary information to the presenter. The best slides are always concise and just use keywords, images or short sentences.
Define the main message for each slide.
Instead of passing thousands of information on the same slide, you must choose a main idea for each one. In that way, the presenter won’t get lost while delivering it.
Slides with too much content can make: the presenter confused; the presenter fail the sequence of the speech; the presenter waste precious time.
Before you start to organize your presentation, try to ask yourself: “What is the goal of the presentation? What is the best way to deliver the message? How can I keep the public’s attention?”
When the relevant points are simplified, people assimilate and memorize the information easily.
Pictures or illustrations, when alone, can hardly bring enough information to explain the content. They are just supporting material that makes the communication easier.
Neuroscience studies have shown the power of images in presentations. If we listen to an oral presentation, three days after, we will probably remember only 10% of it. Whit images, the probability that we remember the content rises to 65%. This discovery has already a name: picture superiority effect.
When the presenter knows all content it is easier to use images and, it can be a way of showing that he masters the subject.
The Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, at TED Talks, did a presentation only using personal photos and videos to talk about his experiences in space.
The story goes that Tom is whitewashing a fence and hating every minute of it. Ben comes by, free as a bird, no chores to do. Ben comments on the work Tom’s doing. And here is what happens:
Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:
“What do you call work?”
“Why, ain’t that work?”
Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:
“Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t. All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer.”
“Oh come, now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?”
The brush continued to move.
“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”
That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth – stepped back to note the effect – added a touch here and there – criticized the effect again – Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed. Presently he said:
“Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”
Now, Mark Twain may not have written your job description, but things haven’t changed all that much in the 125 years since he created Tom Sawyer. The fact is that in any business, if you want somebody to do a job, you probably have to make it interesting, attractive.
It’s the same thing with presentations. The interest factor needs to be there. And that interest factor is created when your presentation has a storyline that has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Consider this: as in live theater, presentations normally take place on a stage, in front of an audience. Somebody is performing, and somebody is watching. The lights are up on the stage and down in the audience.
Is this by chance? No! A good presentation, like a good play, tells a good story. And nobody forgets a good story. Who doesn’t remember the tale of Little Red Riding Hood? Instead of taking the shortest route, the girl chooses to go through the forest. In the forest she meets a wolf. The wolf looks nice and offers to help her. But the reader already knows this is not a good thing. Disaster is sure to follow. The reader is clued-in: If you don’t listen to your mother, the consequences can be disastrous.
Now, this moral is never explicitly told in the story. Instead, a storyline has been created that’s full of excitement and suspense, and so it holds the the audience and leads them to the conclusion it wants them to reach.
In corporate life the challenges may be different, but the point is the same. To sell a product, to motivate a sales team, to get a project approved, to convince a group of investors to make a buy — the presentation has to be so engaging that people just want to pay attention. Yes, there needs to be solid content and reason, but there also needs to be the entertainment and excitement factor.
Tom got Ben to do his job for him 125 years ago by making the work sound and look fascinating and interesting. He made Ben curious by tantalizing him. He was creative in his approach. He was slow and careful, the way a fisherman lures a catch: He got Ben interested (beginning), then he pretended not to care (middle), then he reeled him in (end).
If Mark Twain were creating your presentation, how would it go?
Who doesn’t like to hear a good story?
Who has never rooted for heroes (and, sometimes, even for the bad guys) as if they were close friends?
When we transpose the concept of storytelling to the corporate presentation and video realm, we notice that this is the best way to pass along information without imperativeness. A good example is the video “Love story in milk”.
The author talks about a frequently discussed issue – recycling – in a very original way. After all, you won’t always see two milk cartons romantically involved!
The video is captivating because it engages the audience, who can easily relate to love stories. Also, the video relies on a powerful ally to touch its viewers’ emotions: the sound track, which helps build up momentum in each shot.
Click on the video bellow to see the final result:
Upon applying the storytelling technique, the author managed to communicate effectively because he worked both sides of our brain: emotion and rationale.
At SOAP we believe storytelling is the best way to “sell an idea”. After all, besides entertaining, stories are appealing and lead the audience towards the conclusion you want to convey.
A good presentation is like a story, not just a sequence of slides. What does this have to do with music?
The impact of a presentation is increased meaningfully by connecting the slides, either through the story or the visuals. The presenter must always orchestrate this connection. Stand-alone slides are a great way to make your presentation boring.
Well, albums are made of individual songs. The vast majority of the albums brings songs as isolated entities. As one song finishes, there is silence, and a new song begins. If the song is great, awesome, let’s wait for the next one. On the other hand, if great songs are somehow connected, then the ALBUM is great. That can make all the difference.
There are different ways to connect slides. The most obvious is connecting one slide with the next. However, you can also connect the closing slides with the introduction. Or by using a recurring sentence you can connect different themes at different moments of the presentation. Additionally, you can integrate visual elements that reinforce the connection.
As for music, The Beatles did it all. On the album Abbey Road, they connected 9 songs into a medley. They created melodies that keep coming back in different songs, adapted for each moment. They even created a closing, called . . . The End. All these components make for a beautiful presentation.
Pink Floyd added visuals, a full-blown out script, and created The Wall, a breakthrough album. Even in an incoherent fashion, likely intentional, it proves that it is possible to retain the audience’s attention for 99 minutes, non-stop.
Most companies cannot achieve the same efficiency, even in 15-minutes presentations.
The components of great presentations are universal, they go beyond slides, and permeate many other forms of art.
Watch out, do not allow any slide to be just another brick in the wall.
We are presentation-addicted. It doesn’t need to be Soap’s presentations; it doesn’t need to have the best visuals. It just needs to convey a good message and a create great impact. And the “plus” that puts this equation together, in order to get audience “buy-in”, is the presenter. The idea flow and how it is communicated to people is the greatest value of a presentation.
The visuals are there to support the speech, to send additional messages to the audience, and will help them to build the big picture. It can be done with sophisticated visuals, but also with easily-searchable Google pictures!
Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford law professor, is the best example on how to create impact with a dynamic presentation. His unique style has inspired many people and became a non-official method, the “Lessig Method”.
See these great presentations:
TED – Lawrance Lessig:
Sxip Identity – Dick Hardt
Do you receive those .pps files from an uncle, ex-friend or grandmother?
If you think that all .pps files are boring, bring self-help messages
and have to be deleted from your inbox before opening it, you may be missing an opportunity!
Not all .pps are like that…
Check what SOAP did with this .pps:
Since 1985, PowerPoint has been used as a tool to present ideas.
Some of the results are good, many are boring.
SOAP believes that a presenter can engage any audience using PowerPoint in the right way.
What about you. Do you believe PowerPoint can be a Media?