I spent 17 years in the advertising business. Though most of it is now a blur, I do remember one particular meeting I attended in 1985. We were sitting around a conference table in a dimly lit, stuffy conference room. The presenter was droning on. Statistics and research findings filled the screen. One or two people popped No-Doz. Suddenly the guy sitting next to me, screamed and jumped back from the table. Now I'm no Colombo, but I sensed something was amiss. I checked to see if he was okay and he assured me he was. He seemed a bit embarrassed, but not hurt. During a break in the meeting, I couldn't help but ask what happened. Evidently he had become so bored during the presentation that the whirling fan inside the overhead projector became of great interest. After watching the fan for awhile, he couldn't help but take out his pencil and start poking at it through the protective grate. Sort of a white collar version of the game "Chicken." So as luck would have it, he probed just a wee bit too far and the fan snapped the pencil out of his hand. This startled the poor man and that's when he yelped.
So what's my gripe? Well, if the fan in the projector is more engaging than the presenter, then the presenter needs help. As a communications consultant, I've worked with top executive leaders at all kinds of companies. While some of them are outstanding presenters, the biggest problem I see with many others is that they're boring. Here then, are four suggestions that will jumpstart any presentation.
1. What's In It for Me?
This old adage stands the test of time. Your audience wants to know right from the outset, "What's in it for me?" How will I benefit by listening to you? Will you improve my productivity? Lessen my stress? Make me money? Help me be happier? Without giving them a WIIFM, you won't hook them.
2. Passion Sells
If there's one thing that can grab and keep your audience's attention, it's your energy. Many executives speak to their audience with the same energy level they have when they're feeding the parking meter. Sorry, that just doesn't cut it. Audiences are mirrors. They reflect the presenter. If your energy is up, the troops will be more attentive. If your energy is flat, you'll lose them.
So how do you communicate passion and energy? Smile. Project your voice. Emphasize key words. Gesture openly and own the room.
3. Involve Them
Boring speakers build invisible walls between themselves and their audience. As they see it, the less interaction the better. Great speakers, however, engage their audience in a dialogue. Great speakers involve their audience. Great speakers ask their audience questions. They have fun with their audience. They actively seek questions from their audience. And they even get their audience members to interact with each another.
Next time you give a presentation, create a conversation with your audience.
4. Add Sizzle
In advertising, as the saying goes, "You don't sell the steak, you sell the sizzle." Same goes for giving a presentation. You must add interest and intrigue to your content. (And don't say, "Well what I talk about isn't very exciting. Heck, thumbtacks can be made exciting if you know how.) Many of my clients have been successful in using everything from M&M's to motorcycles to make their presentations memorable. Next time you present, use more stories, analogies, props, surprising statistics, themes quotes and activities. The opportunities are endless.
So there you go ...1) WIIFM, 2) Passion, 3) Involvement and 4) Sizzle. Do any one of these and you'll grab your audience. Do all four and no one will ever stick their pencil in the projector while you're speaking.
Kevin Carroll teaches executives how to develop and deliver outstanding presentations and speeches. He is also the co-author of Make Your Point! (Available on Amazon) To contact Kevin, or for more speaking tips, go to: http://www.kevincarroll.com
President, Carroll Communications
2 Broad Street
Westport, CT 06880