Policy-making, technical presentations or scientific issues can be serious business. But sometimes, in an aim to convey the seriousness of the topic, speakers can be downright boring.
When a presentation fails to engage the audience, it has a detrimental effect on the ability to have the message heard, remembered, adopted and acted on.
Here are three simple ways to make your complex topic more engaging.
Tip 1: Lead by example: show your enthusiasm
If you cannot get behind your topic, your ability to convince anyone else to do so instantly diminishes.
The audience will be able to detect your lack of enthusiasm and disinterest. They will think you are insecure about the topic, or that it is irrelevant. This will cause a disconnect.
Your energy about the topic will have a dramatic effect on your talk:
Find the aspects that are most important to you. Imagine what the outcome will be if the policy can be implemented or if a scientific research leads to a major breakthrough, and show your passion about that outcome.
Use this to energize your talk.
Understand your audience’s drive. Find examples to make it relevant for them. Why are you presenting to this audience specifically? What impact can they have on your issue, and vice versa, how can your topic impact their lives?
If you want the audience to get behind you, make their role clear from the get-go. If you can make your audience members feel this is relevant for their lives, they will be more likely to be invested in what you are saying.
Find an interesting angle. There is no such thing as a boring topic, only boring angles. Comedians like Louis C.K. or Jon Oliver (host of Last Week Tonight) know this well - they can talk about mortgage, US infrastructure or payday loans in the most engaging manner. The angle is how you present your topic to your audience.
Clearly outline your angle in your introduction, this will position your topic in your listener’s mind.
Tip 2: Switch things up regularly
According to a study conducted by John Medina, New York Times best-selling author of “Brain Rules”, an audience’s attention will start to wane after a mere 10 minutes.
It is extremely difficult for the majority of people to stay focused on a long, unchanging monologue. Our brains simply are programed to pay attention to things that are changing.
Use this fact to your advantage by changing up your presentation regularly.
- Add lots of different elements to your talk:
The quickest way to make sure your audience gets bored is to keep things monotonous. With a dozen things that could distract them, you can’t afford to be boring if you want to be effective.
Switch from strong imagery to polling your audience to relevant video clips - you need to keep your audience anticipating something new that is just around the corner.
- Make it relevant with storytelling and anecdotes:
A common issue with policy and technical talks is that they are too theoretical. When a topic is too abstract, it is difficult for the audience to see the relevance.
Combat this with storytelling. All you need to do is start a sentence with: “I remember one time when…” - and the rest will come naturally.
Support facts with real-life examples, connect with the audience by giving them personal anecdotes. Often, stories can solidify abstract ideas, and make complicated issues a lot easier to understand.
- Keep your content short and memorable. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information. They use well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning. Don’t ramble and stay relevant.
Tip 3: Make it seem like a conversation rather than a lecture
- Lean on your personal experience. Talks that are solely comprised of statistics, technobabble, numerical data and abstract ideas rarely leave the audience wanting more (or remember anything afterwards).
Even if it is necessary to rely on all this information, weave in an element of storytelling and relevance. Talk about your own experience in going through the information, or why you find it interesting and relevant.
Simplify your information by drawing on lots of examples from everyday life that your audience is familiar with. It will make your message stick with the audience, because they will be able to visualize it clearly.
Ultimately you are people with similar experiences, and bringing an element of this connectivity into your talk with make it more engaging.
- Use clear, understandable language
Stop using jargon, overused metaphors and cliches. Talks which are convoluted and overly complicated are easy to disengage from.
- Get them to engage with you through polling.
Polls work for three reasons:
1. They make the audience stop and think. Whether they agree, or disagree, you are getting the audience to stop, think and engage with the message or idea.
2. It is experiential. Answering a question is a different experience to passively sitting and listening, it forces the audience to form ideas and opinions about what they are hearing. This simple interaction can have long-lasting resonance with the participants.
3. It gives a different impression about the talk. There is a difference between sitting and watching, and participating in a group experience. Adding a poll will leave the audience with the impression that they have been part of what happened.
If you frequently speak about policy, technical or scientific issues, what do you do to make your talks engaging ? What do you always avoid? Contact us here.
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