Oh boy! Not again! Not another talk-down! How many times have you felt like this going into a presentation or a meeting? Okay let’s reframe the question how many times you have ever felt – “Yeah! Another meeting!” Like never? Okay, your presenter should have been the one reading this. Seriously, if you are a presenter and you are looking to stop your audience from falling asleep when you are speaking, try looking at this course to brush up on your interactive presentation skills. Wait! Interactive presentation skills? What is that?
Interactive presentation is the skill to engage an audience when making a presentation. Ever wondered how much time an average American worker spends per week attending meetings, conferences and seminars? According to the Opinion Matters, for Epson and the Centre for Economics & Business Research that number is 4. The report also state that respondents claimed half of that time is actually wasted.
Okay, coming back to the efficacy of meetings to produce something tangible and quantifiable. Interactive presentations are the way you, as a presenter or speaker, can cut the ice and get your audience to sit up, leave their backrest behind and move to the edge of their seats. Interactive presentation are what captures the attention of the audience and warrants a response from them instead of being just passive listeners. As a presenter, you may have seen people physically there in the room but their minds seemed to have wandered somewhere down the corridor. Some of the greatest speakers in the history of mankind knew how to capture the imagination of their audience and that is why they could sway them and manipulate them. Interactive presentations require a great deal of practice in order to get your skills absolutely perfect. The question however is, how can you possibly do that given the kind of apathy people have towards meaningless meetings and presentations? Here are a few pointers that can help.
Make an Opening Statement that Captures Attention
The day was September 11, the year was 1893, an unassuming man hailing from India stood up to speak. The occasion was the Parliament of World’s Religion. Nervous at the beginning he took a brief pause and then opened by saying
“Sisters and brothers of America!”
An audience of 7000 attendees at the Art Institute of Chicago stood up to give a standing ovation for that opening line. The applause lasted for a total of two long minutes. It was an opening statement of a lecture that shook the US and the world. That man was Swami Vivekananda and he went on to capture the imagination of the western world from here on. Get some inspiration for a great opening!
Not Everybody is Swami Vivekananda, What Can Mere Mortals Do?
What about starting with a fantastic witty opening line that can make everybody break out a smile and cut the ice? A motivational speaker was introduced at a meeting. The introducer spoke highly of him and his past work. The audience was slightly at awe when he made an opening statement which went on like this – He said that has a bad feeling about this thing. He was told before the start of the presentation that the first speaker would be starting with a joke, and then he was introduced! That immediately broke out a smile and changed the atmosphere of the room.
Or You Could Start with a Question
Sometimes an opening statement could just as well be a question. It’s a great way to get started, get the audience engaged and certainly helps in keeping those tired minds from falling asleep. A great question followed by a pause that awaits an answer can be an engaging way to get a presentation started. Most definitely you would have at least one or two people willing to make an attempt in answering that question.
Tell a Story to Follow Up
An opening statement that does not precede a strong follow up substance in the form of the main lecture is going to be anti-climax. It would also mean the perfect recipe for a good afternoon’s siesta for your audience. The way to create a strong back up to your opening statement with a strong statement and an engaging story. Story? Here is one that Swami Vivekananda told to the audience after that heartwarming opening line at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The Story of the Frog
Swami Vivekananda told the story of a frog that stayed inside a well. It was born and brought up there and had never been outside. It had not seen the world and unfortunately that took away his perception of size. One day another frog dropped into that well. It had been staying in the sea and had been the first visitor to the frog inside the well. So the first frog asked the second, where’d he come from? To that the second replied, “From the sea.” “The Sea? How big is that? Is it as big as this well?” To that the frog from the sea replied, “There is really no comparison because the sea is obviously much too big.” The first frog did not believe the second one and drove it out of the well. Through this Swami Vivekananda gave a subtle hint to the myopic outlook that each religion has and the necessity to look beyond the obvious to really look into the diversity that the world has in store. The story and its powerful underlying message captured the attention of the audience. The lesson that can be leant from this is, tell a story and capture your audience’s attention.
The audience is generally at the receiving end of a lecture. Why not change that around and for a while and put them in the hot seat? The ramifications are huge. Your audience will no longer feel that they are being talked down to and they don’t have to listen for a while. They, for a change, will be speaking and sharing their own opinion and experiences in relation with the topic of discussion. No more sleepy audiences and no more frequent bathroom breaks.
Never Read from Notes and Cards
Take this from one of the greatest corporate presenters ever, Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs always believed in his ideas. So much was he immersed in his ideas that he never needed any notes or pointers and or assistances from tele-prompters. This made him look as if he was speaking his mind or that he had an invisible teleprompter hidden from the audience. He was so smooth. In actuality he practiced hard and perfected his presentation. Yup! He was a mere mortal and he felt the cold sweat at the start of a presentation but he overcame that using straight and simple rehearsal. His simple one liners which sometimes had no more than three words still get inward links and his presentation videos on YouTube still generate as much interest as before. Such was the power of the man’s presentations!
The best motivational and political speakers of the world, the best entertainers and presenters never ad-lib. They prepare a speech in advance and prepare themselves. Steve Jobs would spend hours in the weeks leading up to the presentation rehearsing every word and going through every slide. He was precise and immaculate and boy did he made his presentations look smooth!
Remember when you are making a presentation, you don’t have opportunity to improvise and or make something up as you go. It does make it easier if you are impeccably quick-witted and have a great sense of timing because that can help you to handle issues that you are not prepared for. But by and large it never pays to do ad-lib.
Humor is a Great Tool That Can Help Ease the Stress at Presentations
While Introducing the original iPhone back in 2007 Steve Jobs famously took a jive at Microsoft by showing a picture of Jim Allchin, a Microsoft executive, with a line underneath that suggested that the executive would have bought a Mac, if he was not working at Microsoft. Steve Jobs went onto to mention that he had told Apple’s Seattle store to keep an eye on the Microsoft executive because he was retiring soon and there might be sales call and advised them to give him good service! It was a classic example of Steve Job’s impeccable sense of humor and his ability to mix humor with something bland as giving out sales figures.
At another point in the same presentation, he tells the audience that he is going to introduce three new devices that day. One of them is a widescreen iPod with touch controls, the second one is a revolutionary new mobile phone and the third one is a breakthrough internet communications device. He tells the same thing a few more times to the audience while the screen behind him shuffled the icons, until finally he said, “are you getting it?” They happened not to be three separate devices but one and he said that Apple is calling it the iPhone.
Looking for more excellent interactive presentation ideas? Check this course on money-making presentation ideas.