By tricks we don’t mean misinforming or manipulating your audience. But instead we mean what are some things you should do to both grab and hold your audience’s attention?
There are three top tricks that all inspiring presenters use. The first is being real. People are interested in who you are and why this is important to you. One of our client’s from an environmental agency was presenting at a conference recently. He wanted to show that the environment had always been important to him; he just hadn’t climbed on the bandwagon recently. He started by sharing this story: ‘When I was 5 my mother started reading The Lorax by Dr Seuss to me and it became my favourite book. Some of you might know the story of Ted who lives in a town where nothing is quite as it appears; everything is plastic, including the plants. Hopelessly smitten by a beautiful young girl who only has one wish and who dreams of one day seeing a real tree, Ted boldly leaves the city determined to find the flora and grant her wish. On his journey he meets the Lorax , a grumpy but charming character who ‘speaks for the trees’. In his adventure Ted finds the last tree was chopped down, but in a symbol of hope at the end Ted is given a seed, to go and plant the first tree again. And that was when the seed for my own passion about the environment was planted’. The audience immediately connected with his authenticity and passion. If you are able to share the ‘real you’ upfront, that will certainly grab your audience’s attention.
But it has to be much more than being real, as a presenter you have to be relevant. What you are saying has to be relevant and meaningful in your audience’s world. The role of the presenter has shifted from just providing information, to creating relevance and meaning. A presenter on the topic of nano technology to a largely non-technical audience opened by asking, “Who would like to never iron again?” Every hand went up in the audience. He responded by then saying ‘I am here to show you how nano technology will make that possible’. By making his topic immediately relevant to everyone in the room, he had us all hooked. As Dr Stephen Covey says in his best seller ‘The 7 Habits of highly effective people’ – seek to understand before being understood. Show your audience you understand them first, by being relevant to their needs and they will be open to connecting and understanding you. Of course this needs to be done in an authentic and sincere way.
And finally the third trick up every inspiring presenter’s sleeve is risk taking. Predictability is the death sentence of every presentation; it’s the boredom that can kill off your audience. Mark Stephenson of the future optimist fame says he often walks out of presentations when leaders tell him ‘we can be innovative if we stay within the rules”. The walk out is a risk and shocking, but he knows in a matter of seconds people will follow him out and invite him back in. He’s making a point there that innovation only happens when you are ready to break the rules. Instead of saying this as a trite statement he stages a walk out to add gravitas to the situation and make it an unforgettable experience for people in the room. Risky – but memorable and makes a point.
So our Halloween challenge for all aspiring inspiring presenters is to keep it real, relevant and take a risk, try something left field or unusual. You will then earn the ultimate treat – your audience’s attention and respect. Of course you can use these 3 tricks all year round, not just on Halloween.