Behold Early Man looking into the distance! Something has grabbed his attention. It won’t be a Maserati or a coffee table book collecting the recent Instagram posts of Kim Kardashian West. It’s something more basic. You know, food, shelter, something that could eat you.
Nowadays, we have Maseratis and Kim Kardashian Instagram books. But we still have many of the survival instincts that got us to the top as a species. These instincts now work deep in the background, but they are still things you can use to turn a boring subject into an interesting Presentation.
KEEP IT SHORT
Doesn’t matter how amazing a presenter you are – the audience will have a dip in attention after 20 minutes. So, let that be your limit. Nobody has ever praised someone for their presentation being “good and long.” Those words don’t belong together when describing presentations.
And keep the feeling of movement going in your presentation by going from slide-to-slide and topic-to-topic quickly. Humans notice movement – it’s an instinct that keeps bellies full and people out of danger. In your presentation, that’s danger of becoming bored.
A PRESENTATION ISN’T A BOOK OR AN ARTICLE, SO DON’T TREAT IT THAT WAY
People should listen to what you say in a presentation, not read it. Books and articles are good for reading, a movie is for watching but a presentation is for listening. The purpose of pictures is to give context, break up the flow of words and to reinforce the message.
We’ve said it before but it bears saying again and again: A slide needs no more text on it than you could fit in a sentence. At a push, you can get away with two terse ones.
When you create a presentation, don’t forget that it isn’t a document. Work out what you want to say first and then see what will support it.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?
The oldest self-preservation instinct of all. If you can tell people straight away how the subject of your presentation impacts their lives, then you can bet they’ll pay attention. Too often, presenters assume that the connection is obvious. Sometimes you have to make those connections for the audience.
The greater the consequences your topic has in the lives of your audience, the more they’ll pay attention. Are you having difficulty in getting them to make that link? Then share a real story about a real person to illustrate how important your topic is. It’s even better if that real person is you or someone your audience knows.
BREAK IT UP
You get woken up by an alarm clock in the morning because it’s something loud and different. Even small things can be enough to snap you out of a daze. So, use small things to break up your presentations.
Use the space, maybe present from somewhere unusual. Ask the audience a question. Add another presenter or play a video. Moments where someone (or something) else is handling the job of delivering the story allow you to take a breath. Then you can just look at how the audience is reacting for a moment without having to worry about the next cue or next story.
A PICTURE SPEAKS A THOUSAND WORDS
Sometimes clichés have truth to them (looking into a horse’s mouth gets you a face full of bad breath). Well-chosen images that are bright and simple can do a great job of catching attention or emphasising the themes you are discussing. Show lots of people in your images. Humans respond well to seeing themselves, but be wary of those weird, perfect stock photo people. In the same way that people respond well to stories that have connections to them, they respond best to pictures of people who look like them or people they know – not airbrushed people with phosphorescent white smiles.
Now admire these beautiful stock image models! All looking in the same direction.
Have you ever been in an elevator with other people and looked up? Just like these square jawed folks. Try it. Chances are if you do you’ll notice some other people around you do the same thing.
Because humans are hard-wired to be curious and interested in things. It’s known as the Social Curiosity Driver. You can make it work for you. The more interested and engaged in the topic you appear, the more people will want to know about it.
Being interested in the subject will make it much easier to try these other steps we’ve discussed. If the subject bores you, find someone else to present who loves it. If you can’t find that someone, ask yourself the question; “is anyone interested?”.
Because that may be the most important tip to making a boring presentation interesting – put yourself into the heads of your audience. Remember that there are a lot of them and only one of you. That ratio tells you two things – they are the most important part of the presentation equation and… they outnumber you.
Keep them foremost in your mind and remember those simple tricks we’ve looked at here, and people will remember your presentation – for all the right reasons.
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