The next time you are presenting at work ask yourself what you want your audience to remember.
‘I want you to think back to the very last presentation you attended and tell me the one thing you remember from it’.
We ask that question during each of our presentation skills workshops and sadly it’s extremely rare that any of the delegates say they remember anything of note.
The most common response is: ‘it was boring’.
The secret ingredient to ensure that your presentation is remembered long after it’s given is PURPOSE.
That’s just a fancy term for saying that when you are presented with a list of information and later asked to recall it you are more likely to recall what’s at the beginning (primacy) and at the end (recency) rather than the middle.
That’s why the way you open your presentation and what you say, show and do within the first 60 seconds is crucial. Don’t make the mistake most presenters do and start with, ‘Good morning, my name is Ted Smith from ABC enterprise and I’m really pleased to be here’.
It’s rare that an audience will attend any form of presentation where they don’t know who is speaking and the company they work for so you don’t really need to remind them. The fact is they probably don’t care anyway; at least not until they know what it is you have to say that will help them in some way.
Make your first 60 seconds count. Share a thought provoking statement, ask them a question or tell them a personal story. Say or do something that will make them want to pay close attention to what you have to say next.
Arguably you already have their attention because they have come to listen to you speak; your first task is to quickly arouse their interest and curiosity.
The reason many people don’t remember most business presentations is because they are largely all the same. People remember things that are unusual and stand out; things they don’t see or hear every day. The presentations we remember are the ones that are different.
Let’s face it, the reason most people dread presentations and don’t even remember them is because they’ve either heard it all before or they know they don’t need to pay attention because they can Google it.
Build in some drama, suspense or excitement.
Use humour or get your audience thinking.
Use props, give them something to take away.
Surprise them in some way.
Just don’t do what’s expected or what everyone else does.
If I read out a list of 50 random words and asked you to write down all of those you remembered you would be far more likely to include a word I had repeated 3 times on your list.
If you want your audience to remember the important points in your message, you have to make each point in at least 3 different ways.
We can all take a lesson from the great orator Winston Churchill:
“We shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight them on the landing grounds, we shall fight them in the fields and streets; we shall never surrender.”
Too much repetition is of course simply irritating but intentional repetition must be conscious, meaningful and provide emphasis.
People will always remember something you say which has a personal meaning to them. You can give them the facts, data and all the supporting evidence in the world but unless you make it very relevant and personal to them and their needs you’re wasting your time. Remember that list of 50 random words I mentioned earlier, well if I read those out at one of my presentation skills workshops and one of the words was presentation skills guess what they would include on their remembered list?
The presenter’s job is to make everything they say totally relevant and very personal to their audience.
If it isn’t why should they listen let alone care?
Audiences don’t remember reams of facts and data. They remember those things that create an emotional connection with them. No one wants to sit and list to the ‘corporate spokesperson’ who sounds robotic and monotonous as she goes through the motions.
People want to see the real you.
That means having the courage and being open enough to let them into your world so they get to learn about how you really see things and what makes you feel and believe the way you do.
Self–disclosure is the means to doing just that, telling them some personal stories about yourself that are relevant to your message.
A presentation without stories is just a lecture.
Stories create enormous value because they help us understand and envision your message. We get to see, feel and experience your message through the power of a great story.
A great story well told is the one thing that most of us will remember from a presentation.
No matter how good your opening is and how well you connect with your audience during your presentation a lacklustre ending will destroy much of the good work you have done.
As well as creating that all important first impression it’s every presenters job to create a lasting impression and you won’t achieve that with the usual ‘thank you for listening, are there any questions’.
Tell them what you want them to do now, refer back to your opening or give them a personal challenge.
Whatever you do end with a bang and make sure they leave the room feeling exactly how you want them to feel.
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If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and presentation coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.
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