Let’s say you’ve been asked to stand & deliver a one-hour presentation to a large business audience. So you craft a presentation. You rehearse.
At this point, it’s time to deploy an old speechwriter’s tip. Ask yourself: “What is the single most interesting part of my presentation?”
Answer honestly. Your response should give you some profound insight.
I like asking this “single most interesting” question. It gives me amazing ideas for re-crafting, editing, or restructuring a speech or presentation. When I ask the question and get a shrug, “nothing”, “everything!” or “I don’t know” — I have my work cut out for me!
But here are 3 other answers to the “most interesting” question that indicate a speech or presentation is in serious trouble:
- “Why, the incredible design and nifty animations in my PowerPoint slides, of course!”
- “The overwhelming amount of facts and statistics that support my main thesis.”
- “That part in the middle where I share an emotional & dramatic anecdote.”
If your slides, stats, or center are the most interesting or exciting parts of your presentation, uh-oh! You’ve got troubles, my friend! Why?
Good storytelling always trumps fabulous design. You can design the most beautiful slides your audience has ever seen. But in the absence of a good story paired with outstanding delivery, all the audience will be able to remember are pretty pictures + special effects. Remember, design supports the story — not the other way around!
No one likes being slowly clubbed to death with facts. I like facts. And I like statistics. I just don’t like be repeatedly clubbed over the head with them. If you aim to overwhelm your audience, overwhelm them with emotion. In a heightened emotional state, your audience might be more predisposed to accept your logic… or maybe even a fact or two.
Audience attention wanes about every 9 minutes. If the most exciting part of your presentation is in the middle, for heaven’s sake — move it to the beginning. Start strong! Then, craft at least 5 more compelling stories to tell for the duration of your 1 hour presentation. No matter how exciting you are, audience attention wanes about every 9 minutes.
Of course, what you think is the most interesting part of your presentation and what your audience thinks may be two different things entirely! That’s one reason why planning to talk for only 35-40 minutes out of your allotted 60 is generally a swell idea. When you open up the discussion for questions and answers, you’re more likely to find out what’s really most interesting to your audience.
So go on. Ask yourself:
What is the single most interesting part of my presentation?
You’ll be amazed at the insight this simple question will give you!