Our job is to find you fresh, new, inspiring content and we think Nigel Barlow is exactly that. We reviewed his book Rock Your Presentation in a previous post and were so impressed that we’re delighted that he’s written this new post for us outlining the top ten ways to rock your presentation, whether you’re a writer, designer or presenter.
A speaker can learn a lot by switching perspective and sitting in the audience. In researching my book Rock Your Presentation, I sat through hundreds of talks to help me improve what I do on stage every week.
What struck me was the difference between response levels at a formal lecture – and at a great music event. In the former, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) prevails; in the latter, it’s often a passionate, even cathartic experience.
What if inspiration could be taken from the craft of music-making to help you give more compelling talks – creating a ‘hallelujah’ rather than a ‘so what’ reaction in your listeners? That’s what Rock Your Presentation is all about. We can use the magic of music to make our talks – even if the subject is mundane – more lively and enjoyable. I’m not suggesting that the entire sales team will wave their mobiles in the air when you tell them about the new integrated supply chain strategy. But they will listen better!
By ‘rocking’ your presentation I mean energising and bringing it to life using insights from what makes music so gripping. I’ve learned more about presenting with passion from seeing live musical performances, than watching other professional business speakers. Steve Jobs remarked that creativity is ‘just connecting things.’ We can creatively and usefully connect the world of music with that of professional presenting: the result will be to bring more energy, colour and vibrancy to your talk.
Here’s a Top Ten to help you on this journey
1. Opening Riff – A strong early statement, catchy question or story that contains the DNA of your message needs to come up front. Like a memorable riff that opens a song, it needs to hook people in.
2. Make Them Care – The brain’s CEO, the neo-cortex, thinks ‘Do I Care’ as its first-line response to new information. You need to make your audience care with an example or application of your theme that’s earthed in the listener’s world.
3. Go Unplugged – Musicians often pull more heart strings by playing acoustically than electrically. So unplug your Powerpoint, break that invisible fourth wall between you and your audience – make it a dialogue more than a monologue.
4. Powerful Chorus – Just as we only tend to remember a song’s chorus, similarly your audience will only retain a small amount of information – less than you think! So your central theme needs to have a hook and to be catchy – like a strong chorus, albeit said in different ways.
5. Be Elvis – The best visual aid you have is your body. Don’t be static, and don’t wander aimlessly. Stand, and deliver. What you think is an exaggerated body movement is probably about right for your audience. Practice being Elvis.
6. Strong Visuals – Life By Powerpoint is possible – just make your visuals more striking, and ruthlessly make each one earn its place. You’ll find you can cut out about 80% of your first draft of slides. Feel the anxiety and let them go.
7. Call and Response – Get the audience’s voices into the room early on. It may be a simple yes-no question, raising hands, and a chance for you to come off stage and become more in tune with the audience. Switch the axis of power that exists between performer and listener. Get them to agree or disagree – but get them to respond!
8. Be A Protest Singer – It’s all very well to say, I’m very passionate about, say, Cloud-Based Enterprise Architecture – why not? But it’s more important to show your passion. This means protesting about what most needs changing in your field or topic, opening up more of your hopes and fears to your audience. It will touch them.
9. Pause Button – Musicians know how to change the order of their play list to manipulate the audience’s moods. More lively, more settled, more spacey . . . whatever. In the same way, you have to be prepared to pause in your delivery before deciding to either take it at a slower rhythm, or pick up the energy for a thunderous climax. The audience tunes in when you manage the silences and pauses with confidence.
10. Thunderous Climax – It’s not necessary to be sweating or body surfing at this stage of a professional presentation, but you do need to pick up the energy because people will remember the emotional tone you leave them on. Save your best story for last – use a personal and memorable story that encapsulates your message. These are your closing chords, so don’t end on Q & A, and do control the finish.
I know that Top Tens may be somewhat overdone, but given the musical metaphor, I think it’s appropriate here.
Above all, approach the next talk, presentation, or pitch you give with a rock ‘n’ roll attitude and it will almost certainly go better. If it just means that you are letting rip, exposing your passion, and being more energized in front of a group, you’re on the road to making your material really rock.