Dull presentations, sermons and lectures are an inevitable part of life. But if you're the one in front of the room you certainly don't want to be the person your audience wishes would sit back down. Take some tips from Ted Frank, author of Get to the Heart. As a story strategist at Backstories Studio, he uses movie-style storytelling to help people make their presentations quicker, more visual, and more emotionally effective. Here are his words on how use music to be an engaging speaker and presenter whom everyone wants to hear.
Use music as a prelude to your talk.
Playing music as people arrive can refresh them, clear their minds and quickly show them that this is not going to be another boring presentation. It's most effective when it's positive, upbeat, refreshing and universally liked. In other words, Motown, Michael Jackson and Pharrell are much more effective than Gangsta Rap.
Use music genres strategically.
Four types of music can affect how your presentation is received:
Open Music: Like its name, open music is perfect for opening a movie or presentation because it refreshes and welcomes people into the room. In addition to the good feeling music described above, strummed or finger-picked guitars work well, and if the song expands, even better. Sondre Lerche's "To Be Surprised" is a perfect example.
Hold Music: Music can also hold you in place. For instance, if you want to make people feel stressed, play one of those death-metal, troll-under-the-bridge songs. That will make people feel caged-in right away. Conversely, if you want to draw people in, give them something slower and embracing, like "This Woman's Work" by Kate Bush. Are you sinking into your seats? That's hold music. There are definitely specific instruments that lend themselves to open and hold music. For instance, something about acoustic guitars really works for open music. Violins and breathy voices like Kate Bush lend themselves beautifully to an alluring kind of hold music.
Propel Music: When you want to excite your stakeholders or rally them on their way, music can also propel them forward. For this, you need music that's not only uplifting, but driving, like when The Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing" gets going.
Anthems: A good anthem often combines qualities of all three, with an opening that welcomes you in and envelopes you in its hold. Then as more instruments come on and the pace quickens, it creates momentum that propels everyone forward, and most importantly, together. Taylor Swift's "Style" has these qualities. It opens with a guitar strummed with space enough to welcome you, then tension builds as more instruments are added, then there's the break that gives everyone a rest, and then it all builds again toward that "we never go out of style" anthemic line. Finally, it ends on a sizzle that propels you off the cliff.
Certain titles and artists are universally captivating.
I love Kool & The Gang, and especially the Spanish version of "Celebration" called "Celebremos." Smiles immediately come up as people come in. And then, just when they expect it to be what they've heard a million times, it isn't.
After that, for walk-in music, I look for a mix of really likeable songs people know, with new songs they don't. Combing NPR's "All Songs Considered," iTunes charts and YouTube, I've found two gems I still play: Maggie Rogers' "Alaska" and Margaret Glaspy's "Emotions & Math," which I think are perfect when you're trying to bring data to life.
But when the music needs to go under my voice or during an exercise that requires deep thought, I prefer instrumental music, like the kind in a movie score. I get a lot of those through stock music sites like newwestcollection.com and premiumbeats.com. There you can find all four kinds. Searching is more difficult and time consuming than with photo sites because you have to click to listen, but often if you use search words for how the music will make you feel like "pushing" or "relaxing," you'll find some good picks. You can also search by music type or instrument. The music is usually under $50 a track and completely legal to use pretty much anywhere you want.