I’ll never forget going to listen to a former treasurer give a talk on tax reform. Right in the middle of the presentation he broke into a story about one of his kids. At the end of the night I took a straw poll around the table and asked what everyone took away from the presentation. Most of them said they remembered the story, but little else – it was just wallpaper.
On the flip side, the biggest single missing ingredient from most presentations I see is colour. Stats, facts, messages and ideas, will demonstrate your competence. However, on their own they make for a dull, dry and unmemorable presentation.
Colour is important and what connects you to the audience. Competence and connection is what you should be striving for. Colour can be stories, case studies, anecdotes, analogies, metaphors, examples, humour and/or some well-chosen visual aids. Be sure to balance your next presentation with the right amount of colour throughout.
Here’s how you can add colour to your presentations:
1. Research as widely as possible
Brainstorm your topic and write down anything you think may be interesting or relevant. Surf the net and talk to someone else about your topic.
Keep asking yourself how, what, when, where, and why questions about your topic.
2. Sleep on it
After you’ve done your research, sleep on it. It is amazing the ideas that come up when you bring a fresh set of eyes to a situation – even if those fresh eyes are your own.
If you haven’t got time to sleep on it, then maybe take a walk around the block, or even around the office. I find it helpful to take my laptop to a café and have a change of scenery as well.
3. Create tension between you and your audience
Telling a story is a great way to take the audience on a colourful journey. Great tales tend to follow a fairly generic formula – present a situation, followed by a complication, questions might become apparent which the story will then answer in the conclusion.
Try and create some suspense by getting the audience to want to know what is coming up next. Raise questions that you don’t answer immediately.
4. Put your audience into your presentation
The most powerful images you can show someone are the ones you create in their own mind. Paint a picture for the audience and place them in the middle of it. After a section of ideas or messages say to them “imagine if you…” and create a practical example involving the audience.
Make it relevant to them by continually asking yourself how it will affect the people listening. Ask a rhetorical question (followed by a pause).
5. Tell stories about yourself, but don’t paint yourself as a hero
Position yourself as a normal human being (like the audience). Demonstrate that you know how it feels and show them you can laugh at yourself. The audience will love you for it.
In conclusion, a memorable presentation is much like a great pizza. The pizza base represents the stats, facts, messages and ideas. It’s pretty hard to call it “pizza” if it doesn’t have pizza base. Likewise a presentation needs stats, facts, messages and ideas. However, on their own they make for something dull, bland and unmemorable – like pizza base.
Colour is like pizza topping – cheese, sauce, pepperoni, anchovies (whatever floats your boat)!
I’m sure when you pick up a pizza you don’t scrape all the toppings off into one big pile – eat the base first and pile into the toppings! No, with every mouthful you probably like a nice balance of pizza base and pizza topping. Make sure you balance your presentations the same way.
Go forth and communicate!