You stand there stunned. The audience is on its feet begging for more at the end of your presentation. There is wild applause. People are rushing up to congratulate you.
Then you wake up from the dream. Could this have actually happened after your last presentation? Yes, if you had injected your talk with energy and excitement from beginning to end.
Keep it Short
Many of our clients are invited to speak for an hour and we always advise them “no.”
Gone are the days of the long presentation. Blame it on the Internet or the fast pace of today’s business world, but people have shorter attention spans. They don’t have the time or patience to sit through a lengthy presentation waiting for your great close.
That’s why TED talks are limited to 18 minutes. Here is their take on the length of presentations from the Q&A on their site:
I want to speak at TED, but my usual talk runs 50 minutes. Can I get a longer slot?
We strictly enforce the clock for all speakers. TED is the place to condense your ideas into a compelling 18-minute talk that communicates your best ideas. We’ve found that a carefully prepared presentation of this length can have astonishing impact.
Tell a Great Story
So how can you create a short presentation that has an “astonishing impact?” When you have a “carefully prepared presentation” with an opening grabber, you can keep people’s attention from beginning to end.
Great speakers are great storytellers. People love stories. Possibly it’s a carry-over from their childhood when their parents read to them and they followed the exploits of their favorite story book characters.
Bring your stories to life with great visuals and use words your audience can relate to. Anecdotes help them visualize solving their own problems.
If you’d like to see them listen intently, use a story as your grabber. “You won’t believe what happened to me on the very first day of my new business when I sat down at the beat-up desk in my garage…”
A while back I was invited to speak to 100 advertising sales people at USA Today. My talk was ready but I didn’t have a grabber and it was driving me crazy.
Use a Real Experience
That morning as I was getting dressed I heard someone pull my copy of USA Today out from under my hotel room door. Lo and behold, I had my grabber. I went on to tell my audience, “I was enraged. If I hadn’t been wrapped only in a towel I would have gone after the culprit.” Needless to say the sales team loved that story, because they could relate and imagine it happening to them.
Talking at people is passé. Keep it interactive and more like a conversation than a presentation.
Engage your audience throughout your talk by asking questions and getting feedback. Consider giving them a brief exercise and then have individuals share their results.
Be approachable and friendly. Get the audience on your side by welcoming them as they enter the room. During your presentation, mention an interesting idea you learned in talking to an audience member.
End the presentation on a high note, with another exciting grabber. You want people to leave feeling that they learned a lot, and not that they were disappointed because you were such a bore.
It won’t be a dream if the audience is on its feet wildly applauding your next presentation and rushing up to congratulate you. You won’t have to pinch yourself to know that your carefully prepared presentation wowed them.