It’s great to find yourself at the front of the room, speaking clearly, shuffling confidently through your perfectly-chosen slides, seeing looks on the faces of your audience members that seem to say “Yes, I am listening. No, I cannot turn away.”
If only it was always that easy…
It can be helpful to think about attention in terms of presentations in three ways: First, we need to grab the audience’s attention. We need to find some way to capture them quickly and make sure that they are invested in our message right from the start. Secondly, we need to hold their attention. It serves little purpose to shock our audience into a state of alertness if we quickly lull them back into a stupor of boredom and complacency. Once we have our audience’s attention, we need to pace our presentation in such a way that can keep them coming along for the ride by creating various, dynamic “highs” and “lows” as we build toward our conclusion. The third way to think about attention in regards to our presentations involves what happens after the presentation is over. Did all of our hard work go in one ear and out the other – or did we make it memorable?
Making your presentation memorable can be tricky. Some of the things we do to create excitement in the moment when we are speaking won’t necessarily resonate beyond that afternoon. However, some of the fundamentals of a good presentation will make you compelling on stage and for many water-cooler discussions to come.
Here are a few ways to create a buzz the next time you present.
1. Less Will Impress
Less is more. This is a fundamental rule for any presentation, but it plays an especially important role when it comes to making your hard work something to remember. If your presentation is short, fast, and to the point, you are more likely to capture and keep your audience’s attention. In addition, by not filling-in every single blank, you are inviting your audience to invest their own ideas, creating a dialog that will keep them thinking about your captivating pitch for weeks.
2. Lift Your Language
Obviously, this technique could become overdone in the context of a presentation, but it’s worth considering. Think of the way JFK, RFK or MLK used to speak to their audiences. We certainly remember their speeches decades later and their messages continue to resonate throughout the culture. All three employed two methods: They elevated their audience’s vision while simultaneously speaking in short, simple sentences that anyone could understand. How can you do the same in your next presentation?
3. Centralize When You Organize
When you’re organizing your presentation, it’s important to focus in on one theme and continue to refer back to it as you move from point-to-point. This will insure that your audience won’t lose track of your central theme as you tell your story. If your audience can’t follow, they certainly can’t remember.
4. Make Demands on Your Diction
Choosing exactly the right words in your presentation is crucial. After all, your presentation is mostly made of words. Does your description of this new product actually describe it well or is it simply a jumble of marketing phrases that no one can really grab onto? Keep it clear. Make it simple. Make it memorable.
5. Book ’em
Don’t be afraid to use literary devices to bring a heightened level of power to your presentation. For instance, the use of alliteration may motivate more momentum in the moment. Metaphors, similes and allusions can also bring unexpected weight to your story. Jesse Jackson once compared unregistered voters to the stone that killed the Biblical Goliath in what is now considered one of the greatest speeches of all time.
No matter how well-spoken you are, no matter how well-written your presentation is, no matter how pretty your slides look, you will flop if you don’t have compelling ideas and interesting notions to speak about. A TV show about nothing can be a big hit, but a presentation about nothing will never be memorable.
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