Whether you’re getting ready to pitch the next big idea at your meeting, present in front of your department soon, or have been asked to be a guest speaker at a national convention, here are some tips for how to present a message that sticks with your audience.
I was floored when I saw this commissioned piece of art in the offices of Universal Studios.
I’ve spoken for the creative minds at Universal many times, but I’d never seen visible proof of how much my message resonated until this. It was humbling knowing this was created after my first visit speaking to the Marketing and Sales teams of Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida.
“Living the Dream” is a catchphrase I started using in my keynote speeches that has stuck with more people than I ever imagined—and now, it’s hanging on walls!
It got me to thinking: a powerful message lives on beyond the speech. After speaking to over one million people in the last decade, I’ve witnessed just how short audience attention spans can be. According to Statistics Brain, the average attention span has dropped to just eight seconds, so if you’ve been asked to speak for 30 minutes or write 1,000 words on a given topic, you can count on your audience ignoring a large portion of it. So if you’re asked to present, how do you capture your audience and keep them engaged while you share your valuable information? (Don’t worry, I won’t suggest you pick up juggling or fire-eating like me.)
1. Tell them your expectations. I tell my audience that I have given up a day and a half with my family to fly to their event and to give my keynote for an hour and a half. In exchange, I ask them to turn off their phones and to be present for the next hour and a half. People taking notes in a meeting with pen and paper has worked for a long time before laptops were invented. If they say they need their laptops for notes, generously hand them the materials they really need: pen and paper.
2. Be honest about your content. If you have valuable information that everyone really needs to hear, let them know it, and deliver it in a concise, professional, and fun way.
3. Don’t waste their time. You don’t have time to waste and neither do they. Only give them real information, no filler. I repeat: NO filler.
4. Do not read your PowerPoint to your audience—it’s insulting. (I know this has been said over and over, but I still see it done too often.) A good rule of thumb is this: Only use PowerPoint if it empowers your point. Never use it as a crutch because you don’t know your own material.
5. Tell your audience why this information is important, how you’ve used it in your career and life, how it’s benefitted you, and why you’re excited for them to have this information as well.
6. Move the spotlight away from you. You’re there to present material, not to tell everyone how cool you are. Whether you like it or not, if it’s all about you, no one cares.
7. Make sure you leave them with something they can actually apply. Even the most inspirational story, although great to hear, doesn’t help me cope with my job, my family, and the 30 pounds I need to lose. How is your information applicable to every audience member’s life. If you can’t answer that question, they should probably have someone else produce the content.
8. Be excited, but know your material. People often ask me if I’m nervous before I present in front of a group of 2,000 people. There are two kinds of people who are about to go in and take a test. The first paces up and down the hall, nervous because he hasn’t studied and he doesn’t know the material. The second paces up and down the hall excited because he can’t wait to get into the classroom to pour out all the information he’s learned. Make sure you’re the second type.
9. Think about what you pay attention to. When you walk into a meeting or open an email, what information would you like to hear, see, or listen to? Only deliver that information. Enjoy your applause, and go sit down.
10. Get feedback from a trusted mentor. Presentations go from good to great when you develop ideas and practice with someone who will be honest with you before your big day.
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As a speaker and author, Curtis Zimmerman has impacted over one million people with his life-changing messages and award-winning programs. Curtis is an expert at transforming organizations by inspiring individuals to live their lives at performance level.