6 rules for delivering presentations in the attention-challenged Internet era
If you are called upon to deliver a presentation, how do you cut through all the noise? And, most importantly, how do you leave an impression on your audience? It seems that in most, if not all, conferences and sessions I attend these days, more than half the audience are looking at their screens -- catching up on email, and all sorts of other distractions. Many presentations are delivered over the web these days, so you know a good part of the audience is doing something else while the talk is being delivered. How do you compete against that?
Having conducted more than 100 webcasts, along with many in-person presentations, I've picked up a few pointers along the way, especially from seasoned co-presenters. Here are a few new rules for getting and keeping an audience's attention in the Internet age:
1) Tell a compelling story: First and foremost, members of the audience wants to know why the information you are presenting is meaningful to them. It doesn't have to impact them directly, but if you can make it interesting, and open by making a powerful case for whatever solution you are going to offer, you will have their attention. Think about it: why is this presentation so important to you, personally? What did it take to get there? What started your journey to this particular place? (It could even be something that happened as far back as your childhood that triggered a long cascade of events.)
2) Rehearse to the point that you sound spontaneous. It may sound contradictory, but delivering what sounds like a spontaneous presentation takes a lot of preparation and rehearsal. While it may be difficult to remember a talk line by line, a speaker should have practiced to the point that a lot of it is in his or her head, and he or she can deliver much of the material as if he or she were conveying it in an informal conversation.
3) Keep it simple: In his legendary presentations, Steve Jobs would limit what he was presenting to simple, clear, one-line descriptions, usually chunked into groups of three. His PowerPoints were sparse, minimalistic, but attention-grabbing.
4) Keep it short: Everybody is stretched for time these days. Kevin Karschnik, a corporate public speaking coach, says that in many situations a speaker should be able to deliver a hard-hitting presentation in no more than nine minutes -- which is also the time limit on TED speakers.
5) Show your passion: This is what makes TED talks so compelling -- the speakers seem to be oozing passion. Many politicians have mastered this on the podium, but this often is lacking in business presentations. Business or technical presentations should be every bit as passionate as a political stump speech. Look at the presentations Steve Jobs used to give. It wasn't just the sleek new devices he rolled out, it was his sense of passion for his mission. Jobs had been on a mission, since day one, to change the world and bring seamless computing to everyone on the globe. That passion energized his speeches well beyond that of the typical tech industry speaker. It's a passion that literally infected his audiences, whether they are watching the presentation live or on video, or reading a summary.
6) End with a call to action: You don't want to just wrap it up and wish everyone a good day. You want to state what it is audiences members -- their heads now filled with your ideas and concepts -- should do next to improve their lives or businesses or technical projects. Give them something to start pondering as soon as they leave the room -- or sign off, in the case of a webcast.
— By Joe McKendrick on February 24, 2014, 9:18 AM PST
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
So, make it interesting, polished, simple, short, passionate, and end with a call to action.
Congratulations on finally cracking the code.
@dmm99 Nice illustration to sharpen the point... Some of history's greatest speeches were nice, short and powerful. And long before the Internet came along!