If you had to focus on just 4 things to make your next talk great, which would you pick?
That’s a tough call, because so many factors go into a talk. Which is just one reason I was intrigued by the video below.
Another reason I was intrigued?
The video quotes 3 experts I’ve also quoted before:
To save you time, this clip skips the first 60 seconds (and the last 90) of the original video (when he sets up his topic and promotes some courses).
If you like, you can watch the full 10-minute version on YouTube.
1. Your talk’s core idea (at 1:00 in the video)Scroll to Contents ↑
I love that Thomas puts your talk’s core idea as #1 on his top-4 list – he calls it:
“the absolute most important element of any presentation”
Thomas Frank – at 1:02 in the video
Most public speaking advice focuses on lesser details
That’s so refreshing! Most public speaking advice focuses on lesser details (like body language and vocal variety). Mind you, I’ll admit to often falling into that trap too!
Thomas ends this part of his video with more great advice:
“Make sure that each part of your presentation
relates to that idea and supports it”
Thomas Frank – at 1:52
You’ll help people to get maximum value from your presentation
That’s one of the best ways to make your talk:
- Simple to grasp
So, with each part of your talk supporting your main idea, you’ll help people to get maximum value from your presentation. And they’ll love you for it!
2. Storytelling (at 2:06)Scroll to Contents ↑
In this section of his video, Thomas opens with some great points about the power of stories. For instance, he says:
“Telling a story is a great way
to add emotion to your talk,
and that’s especially useful when
your idea isn’t all that emotional”
Thomas Frank – at 2:13
Emotion gives you these 2 key benefits
Emotion gives you these 2 key benefits:
- It makes your talk far more engaging and enjoyable.
- It helps you stir your audience to act.
On that 2nd point, as the one-time president of the National Speakers’ Association Patricia Fripp puts it:
“Logic makes us think;
emotion makes us act”
So, I bet you weren’t surprised to see storytelling in Thomas’s top-4 list. (I wasn’t either.)
Your stories should showcase 3 Cs…
But it’s very helpful that he succinctly shares specific storytelling tips. Namely, he recommends your stories should showcase 3 Cs:
- A conflict or crisis
- A satisfying conclusion that supports your core idea
- A character people can empathize with – ideally, you being vulnerable
Because I’m an introvert (and a logical thinker), storytelling doesn’t come easily to me. So I appreciate Thomas’s concrete tips.
And I’d say stories are one of the top 5 techniques to engage people through emotion.
If you’d like more help on storytelling (from various bloggers and experts), please browse the storytelling category on this site.
3. Analogies and metaphors (at 4:11)Scroll to Contents ↑
In his video, I like the way Thomas explains one benefit of using metaphors:
“Use analogies and metaphors to essentially
meet your audience where they are”
Thomas Frank – at 4:12
That struck a chord with me because back in 2013, I shared a video which featured Chris Anderson (of TED fame) exploring that idea too.
In fact Chris used a metaphor himself – he said speaking’s like taking people on a journey, and you need to start where they are.
I loved that metaphor so much that I crafted my own version:
You’re on one side of a chasm, and your audience is on the other
When you give a talk, it’s like you’re on one side of a chasm,
and your audience is on the other. So you have to build a bridge.
But that’s not enough…
They’ve never crossed it, so they don’t know how – or if it’s safe!
That’s why you have to cross to their side first.
Then you can show them how to cross – and that it’s safe.
If you’d like to explore another example (by someone else), see this other post on using similes (a type of metaphor).
Try these 2 rich sources of metaphors
Where can you find metaphors to use in your own presentations, though? Try these 2 rich sources of metaphors:
- Look out for metaphors in the media (like the ones Thomas mentioned from movies and TV), and write down ones you see.
- Draw your core idea – as a simple diagram. Then, ask yourself what else the diagram looks like.
For instance, does the following diagram remind you of anything? (It’s from the link above, about drawing your idea.)
For me, that diagram prompted several potential metaphors:
- The circles remind me of islands shown on a map.
- The vertical lines look like a tower seen from the side, or a canal seen from above.
- The whole thing reminds me of diagrams in biology (like of osmosis, or our skin protecting us from infection).
A diagram helps you see your idea from other people’s viewpoints
Because it’s open to interpretation, a diagram helps you see your idea from other people’s viewpoints. (Plus, it gives you a great visual to use…)
So, try drawing your core idea when you plan your next talk!
4. Audience interaction (at 6:00)Scroll to Contents ↑
Having included this in his top-4 list, Thomas is clearly a big fan of audience interaction. (I am too!)
He does warn you to use it wisely though:
“Don’t start your presentation off
with audience interaction…
you have to build their trust first”
Thomas Frank – at 7:53
Mostly, I agree
Mostly, I agree – don’t start with interaction. In fact, I like what speaking-coach Michael Port says about that:
“Audience interaction should be
proportionate to the amount of
trust that we’ve earned”
And, as I put it in my post about making your talk conversational:
At the start of your talk,
you simply haven’t earnt any trust yet!
Mind you, there can be exceptions – specific times when it can help to start with interaction:
- In an online session – to fight boredom and “Zoom fatigue” – if you’re confident, you could ask an open question near the start to engage people more.
- In a webinar – if you’re experienced and totally prepared – you might run a poll near the start to let the attendees rank your agenda items (to change the running order).
- Similarly, suppose you’re giving training as an expert in your topic. In that case, you could even let the trainees set the whole agenda, for an extremely engaging session.
Only start with interaction in cases like the ones above
So, the bottom line’s this:
- In a typical face-to-face presentation, use audience interaction after you’ve given the audience some value.
- Only start with interaction in cases like the ones above – as a confident online speaker, or when running training as an expert.
And – in all cases – I highly recommend Thomas’s other great advice on this:
“Plan for… if your audience doesn’t
[respond] in the way you expect,
or if they don’t [respond] at all”
Thomas Frank – at 8:06
Especially in online sessions, I’d also caution you to use polls selectively:
- Make sure your poll adds value – for your audience, not just for you!
- Use a poll literally just 1 or 2 times in your event – no more.
Over to youScroll to Contents ↑
Would your top-4 list be different?
I really like Thomas’s top-4 list. Plus, forcing yourself to choose the most crucial aspects of any talk helps you to think deeply about your speaking.
As a reminder, here’s Thomas’s list:
Related postsScroll to Contents ↑
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