The question we’re asking this week could almost appear provocative, given how dense the presentations you have to endure everyday are! They seem built as if each minute was vital, as if the amount of time given to a presentation should always be filled to the brim. The most symptomatic sign is certainly the use of slides, where each centimeter is used to show a chart, an image, a list or the beginning of an argument.
Speakers who give these types of presentations are often mistaking their goals. This is reflected by what we call the “good student” position, where the goal is not to share ideas but to prove that you are right, that you have worked hard, that the mission is on track, the you’ve made the right decisions, that the solution you’re providing is the most relevant… This attitude is the antithesis of the leadership role you need to develop to get people to adhere to your ideas. But mostly, this approach forgets a basic statistic: the recall rate of a message is extremely low, approximately 3% after 3 days!
By thinking that everything is important when you give your presentation, you over saturate the attention time that the audience can grant. And in most cases, you can’t prioritize the importance of the content in your speech. By talking all the time, acting like the expert on the subject by showing whatever you say on the screen, you’ll have no way of controlling what will actually be remembered by your audience. Each one of us can choose what will be remembered… or not, according to what we see or hear. In the case of a presentation where the challenge is to maximize audience support for your ideas, this situation is not ideal.
And what if, in fact, to maximize the impact and adherence to your messages, you had to accept that everything is not important and that the trivial can also play a role in a presentation?
Of course, when a presentation is approaching, we always encourage you to look for the ideal structure. Whether it is choosing an introduction that captures attention, or an inspiring pitch, a captivating narrative, an unforgettable moment or an impactful conclusion, everything counts to boost support for your ideas. But it is precisely by integrating breathing pauses to your presentation that you’ll be able to place emphasis on the strategic elements of your remarks. Here are a couple of simple techniques to implement:
Vary the semantic levels – a rather intuitive technique to ensure someone remembers a message is to repeat it. Though this advice seems obvious when one applies it to oneself, it is much more difficult to do it in public. You can easily imagine the comments you might get: “uh…you’ve already said that,” or: “we’ve understood, now let’s move on.” It is in these circumstances that the use of different semantic levels can be invaluable. They allow you to express the same idea in different ways: by telling a story, developing an analogy, decrypting an operation or expressing a concept.
Work on your transitions – there’s nothing more trivial that a transition. It obviously brings no strategic value to your comments. Yet transitions are indispensable to give coherence and facilitate memorization. The more your remarks will be built within a fluid, coherent and logical structure, the easier it will be for your audience to rebuild their memory of your speech afterwards. Placing importance on your transitions is the first step toward progressively implementing a storytelling style allowing you to switch from an analytical approach that is completely ineffective, to a narrative approach that is optimized to capture attention.