3 Ingredients for Unforgettable Presentations
Most audiences sit back, listen, and are left to find meaning in what the speaker is saying. But fortunately, with careful crafting, you can include three concepts in your presentation to help audiences remember your speech: variation, relevance, and emotion. Here's a look at all three and how they'll make your speech memorable.
Variation in Sound, Sight, and Evidence
You must diversify your material to keep people’s attention with variation in your voice, your evidence, and your visuals. Adding variation in your volume and speaking rate will help keep your audience’s attention and motivate them to listen. And by speaking expressively, your passion will shine through.
For many presenters, this type of speaking doesn't come naturally, so I often instruct them to infuse their presentations with emotive words, like "excited." If you are speaking about a big opportunity, then speak in a big way. With practice, you'll feel more comfortable with this type of vocal variety.
Varying the type of evidence you use to support the claims in your presentation is also important. Too often, presenters rely on their favorite type of evidence such as data or on anecdotes. But both qualitative and quantitative academic research have found that triangulating your support provides more compelling-- and memorable--results. So try providing three different types of evidence, such as a data point, a testimonial, and an anecdote. This will neatly reinforce your point and give your audience multiple ways to connect with your idea, and remember it.
What your audience sees is also critical. As a monotonous speaker can cause mental shutdown, while repetitive body movements and slides jammed with words can make them fatigued. To increase the variety of your nonverbal delivery--that is, gestures and movement--record yourself delivering your presentation, then play the recording as you practice your gestures. Since you don't have to think about what you're saying, you can play with adding variation to your body movement without the distraction of speaking.
Likewise, challenge yourself to think visually. What could represent your point in a more meaningful way? Could you create a diagram or flow chart? One tool to get those visual juices flowing is Google Images. Type in the concept you are trying to convey and see what comes up. The images you find might have copyright issues, so I don’t recommend using everything you find, but you’ll get an idea of the visual variety that is possible.
Know Your Audience
As a speaker, your job is to serve your audience and make it easy for them to get your message. Too often, presenters deliver numbers devoid of context, which makes it hard for the audience to see their relevance, much less remember them.
For example, I worked with a green technology company doing some wonderful things. During a presentation, one of their executives said their company had saved the United States 1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. That's a big number, but since I am not an electrical engineer it means nothing to me. But then, the presenter translated this number by saying 1 billion kilowatt hours is the equivalent of the entire U.S. not using power for 15 minutes. Suddenly, the number became much more impactful.
Another way to make things relevant is by connecting your content with information the audience already knows. Analogies are a perfect tool for this. By comparing new information to something your audience already knows, you'll activate the audience’s existing mental constructs, enabling quick understanding.
Make Them Care
People remember emotionally-charged messages more easily than fact-based ones. In fact, modern scientists find that our emotional responses have a fast track to our long-term memory. When possible, try to bring some emotion into your presentation, be it in your delivery or the content itself.
In terms of delivery, ask yourself what impact you want to have on your audience. Your delivery style and tone should be congruent with the emotional impact you desire. Yet at the same time, you want to be authentic, not theatrical. This requires some thought, so I recommend practicing in front of focus groups who can give feedback.
Many of my more technical and scientific clients and students challenge me on my assertion that emotion is important. They argue that their presentations are often highly specialized and detailed and that emotion doesn’t play a role in those talks. I disagree. Even the most technical talks can have some emotional aspect, especially if you focus on the benefits or implications of the science or technology. Benefits are inherently emotional--saving time, saving money, saving trees, saving lives--these are the things people care about.
By adding emotion, relevance, and variety to your presentation, you can be sure the audience will remember it. The techniques and approaches I have described will help you be more comfortable and confident in your presenting. And that will only amplify your positive impact on your audience.
This piece was originally published by Stanford Graduate School of Business and has been republished with their permission. Follow them @StanfordBiz