Great presentations have been delivered for thousands of years, and particularly the memorable speech, of which many are still commented on and studied to this day.
Computers have changed the dynamic in the last twenty five years with the advent of outstanding digital images and programmes to deliver them through a digital projector or Plasma. Yet they have also brought with it the opposite where people are bored by the presentation, the so called “death by PowerPoint”.
Therefore, what is the key to great presentations?
Evoking the emotions
If you look throughout history at the presentations we remember, or the speeches that stick in our mind, it has nothing to do with the images, or the quality of the speaker, it is to do with the emotions attached to the presentation that will make it memorable. The Martin Luther King speech where his immortal line was “I have a dream” resonated with the audience and those that hear it, even today. Winston Churchill’s radio broadcast where he said “We will fight them on the beeches” again hit the emotion of the time.
You would be right at this point to be thinking that I don’t have a subject like that to work with, so how can this be the key? It is the understanding of the power of emotions. An emotional subject bypasses the brains filters and allows access to the Hippocampus which is the part of the brain where memories are stored. Add impactful images as well and you have an even greater chance of people remembering your presentation as images are also processed and stored in the Hippocampus. To reach that point of the brain you only have to make the presentation resonate with your audience. You need to get them to want to hear and be involved and a subject that attaches to the emotions
In book two of Aristotle’s “Rhetoric” he list many of our emotions,
- Anger, opposite of calmness
- Friendship, opposite of loathing
- Fear, opposite of courage
- Shame, opposite of confidence
- Kindness opposite of cruelty
- Pity opposite of respect
- Indignation opposite of acceptance
- Envy, opposite of generous
- Love opposite of hate
But you can also add:
- Health (anything to do with the sales of fitness gear comes from this emotion)
- Fear of Loss
- Pride of ownership
This gives us a good idea of what we should consider when preparing our presentation and particularly the introduction which is crucial for getting their attention. Music also evokes major emotions and is a popular addition.
I was working with a firm looking at their presentations for their annual meeting (a service I offer) and to say they would not be memorable was an understatement. The more worrying aspect was that this company was losing money and needed to turn it around. This was something that didn’t even come across in the first attempt the finance director made with his presentation, because it was all numbers and nothing resonated. The sales director was not much better and certainly would not have inspired his team when they say it.
After some work with them the finance director stood at the podium, took out a £20 note and lit it. The surprise in the room was palpable. He then started with the opening statement “We are currently losing money at a rate that is equivalent to burning a twenty pound note every hour, it has to stop if we are to keep our company going”. Do you think it got their attention. What a different response he got when aimed at the emotions of the people in the room.
The sales director came dancing onto the stage to the classic “You can keep your hat on” made famous in the film about miners who turned to strippers. He started stripping and when he got to a point where everyone was getting nervous about how far he would go, the music stopped and he looked at the audience and said “Do you remember why they became strippers in the movie? It is because they were made redundant, well if we can’t turn around the sales of this company then you could be joining me on stage”
Both got there attention and left lasting impressions. I could give many other examples including the involvement of a lion called Franky, but hopefully you are already thinking about how to reach out to your audience, making it very real for them, and working on their emotions.