(Short of time? See the tips now.)
Here’s one of the best ways to make your speech or presentation more successful: Make it conversational.
Why does that help? It lets you engage with your audience much more than if you used a one-way, “lecture-style” talk (where people feel they’re being talked at).
By making your talk conversational:
- Your audience listens to you more carefully.
- Your message affects people much more deeply.
In essence, making your talk more conversational means making it more like an everyday, two-way discussion, which involves your audience more.
But don’t worry – if you don’t have enough time to involve people overtly (or you don’t feel comfortable doing that yet), you can involve them more subtly.
You can involve your audience along a spectrum
In fact, you can involve your audience along a spectrum:
When you present, are you at risk of focusing too much on your topic?
Usually, you’re chosen as the speaker (or as a subject-matter expert for a training project) because you’ve deep knowledge of your subject. But sadly, that means it’s all too easy for your audience to become overwhelmed or confused by the detailed knowledge you might try to present.
You and your audience see your topic differently
And even if your audience are as expert as you, they won’t have exactly the same background and perspective. So again, that makes it easy to lose them, because you and they see your topic differently.
What can you do then, to help bridge that gap between your listeners’ viewpoints and your own?
In this post, you’ll find 4 simple tips that’ll make your presentations’ titles much more engaging than the titles you might see other speakers use. So people’ll turn up eager to hear what you say.
Plus, your clear and compelling title’ll help you too, by keeping you focused and on track.
As well as for a presentation, you can also use the tips from this post to improve the title of a training event, blog post, or e-book.
To skip to the tips and examples in the post, you can click these links… Or, just read on.
What’s wrong with typical titles?
When you write the title for your presentation, do you usually just state what the content is, and maybe who it’s for and the date?
If so, I’d say that’s a big mistake! To help explain why, let’s look at a specific example…
Be honest with yourself. How much would you say your talks stand out from other people’s? More to the point, how much would your audience say your talks stand out?
Whether you work in business or education, audiences see so many presentations that standing out can be tough. But, on the other hand, presentations don’t tend to vary much, which makes your task easier!
You and your message really need to stand out to be remembered and get talked about, which both help you turn your talk into audience action. (After all, if people don’t act differently once your talk’s over, what tangible effect has it had?)
And, as Sally Hogshead (a member of the Speaker Hall of Fame) so bluntly puts it:
“Stand out or don’t bother”
So, what can you do to stand out from the countless presentations out there?
Well, in the overview of the FiRST framework, I suggested a mnemonic (“OPQRS”) to segment your approach to standing out, and to help you remember related techniques.
That mnemonic stands for 5 categories of tips, in topics that are key to standing out:
In this post, you’ll find tips you can use to help motivate your listeners to turn your words into action. And through that action, people can solve the problem they have – which is what brought them to hear you speak in the first place.
As author and researcher Andrew Abela puts it:
“If you’re trying to solve a problem for them,
then whatever you give them is going to be
interesting to them.”
So trying to solve your listeners’ problem certainly keeps them engaged. But how exactly can you help people turn your words into action? I recommend you use this 3-part model:
When you build a deck of presentation slides, how do you keep on track? If you’re like me, I’m sure you’ve sometimes felt pressure (from yourself or some-one else) to include more and more content.
You know, like:
- Background on your topic, even though most of your audience doesn’t care (or already knows it)
- Existing slides on your topic, but which were made for a different purpose
Here’s one great tip that’ll help you resist pressures like those, and it comes in just a
20-second video clip from experienced speaking-coach Jim Endicott:
As Jim suggests:
What do TED talks, the president of the United States, and the key message in the book Made to Stick have in common? Simply this – they’re all known by acronyms:
- TED for Technology, Entertainment, Design
- POTUS for President Of The United States
- SUCCES from Made to Stick.
You might be wondering what that has to do with your talk or presentation. Well, coining your own acronym can help you neatly and compellingly convey your core message or call-to-action.
That’s what I often do with my own content, using acronyms like FiRST, Aim, or PACE. And as you can tell from me citing 3 examples that I’ve coined, I love acronyms!
I’m not the only one, either. Near the end of this post, I list acronyms used by many other speaking-coaches, including:
- Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen and other books on presenting
- Craig Valentine, former World Champion of Public Speaking
- Ellen Finkelstein, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP
An acronym can be great for you and your audience
So let me try to convince you why an acronym can be great for you and your audience. (That is, provided you apply your acronym strategically to a vital part of your talk, especially your core message or call-to-action.)
Does this age-old advice about presenting sound familiar?
- Tell people what you’re going to tell them.
- Tell them.
- Tell them what you told them.
You’ve probably heard that advice before (and you might well follow it, too). It basically says:
“Start your presentation with an agenda,
and end with a summary slide” [Doubtful advice]
I’ve used that format myself many times. But the more I thought and read about it, the more I realised it tends to bore listeners, for 4 reasons:
When you’re preparing a speech or presentation, do you ask yourself specific questions to help you build your talk?
For instance, you might ask yourself:
“What do I want my audience to do as a result of my talk?”
Questions like that one – being based on your audience – are much more helpful than focusing on your topic itself. They help you frame your content from your listeners’ viewpoint. So when you give your talk, people are far more likely to:
- Listen to what you say in the first place.
- Make the effort to properly consider it.
- Accept it.
One of the best sets of speech-planning questions I’ve ever seen was shared by speaking-coach Christopher Witt. It consists of just 4 questions, the 1st being what you want your audience to do, and the last being:
In part 1 – Use the PACE approach – I showed how you can start to engage an audience before you even speak. To do that, you can make your talk’s title meet these 4 criteria, so it’s:
- P Personal
- A Actionable
- C Conversational
- E Emotional
In this post, you’ll see how to make your whole talk personal – to keep people engaged.
By that I mean using your content to connect with each person in your audience. As people are generally most interested in themselves, one of the best ways you can connect with your audience is to show clearly that you’re focused on them. After you do that, another great way to connect with and therefore engage people is to use genuine emotion.
So, how can you do those things to make your whole talk personal? Well for a start, try these 4 tips, which are arranged roughly from most to least audience-centred: