When you give a speech, your fondest hope and dream is for people to actually REMEMBER something that you said.
That’s a difficult feat, even for the best presenters. A typical keynote speech is 45 minutes long. How can you best use this time to assure that your audience actually does something with your information?
Let’s take a step back and consider how people actually learn from a speech. A few years ago, a research team led by Stephen Kosslyn and composed of experts from three universities studied how presenters could improve their public speaking. They discovered three steps that must occur to make your presentation memorable:
1. Information needs to be Acquired
2. Information needs to be Processed
3. Information needs to be Connected to Knowledge
If there is any disconnect with these steps your presentation will fall flat. Let’s look at each of these steps and come up with some ideas to help you connect with your audience in a lasting and memorable way.
Information needs to be acquired
1. Keep the focus on the knowledge — I recently went to a talk where every slide in the speaker’s deck had a different format. It was so distracting. My learning process was blocked because I had to re-orient myself every time there was a new slide.
Help your audience acquire the knowledge in your presentation by keeping them focused on the information, not the format. Your presentation should have a consistent and distinguishing style in terms of fonts, colors and layout that makes it easy to view and consume.
2. Keep it organized — The content and design of your deck must have order and flow. One trick I use is to tell people right at the beginning what I want them to conclude from my presentation. My talk then builds to that conclusion. Since I already told them what the take-away should be, they are expecting this conclusion and can concentrate on the information instead of guessing what is next.
For example, I have new speech about the principles from my new book The Content Code. At the beginning of the speech I tell the audience, “What I am going to propose today is nothing less than a total re-vamping of how we must think about marketing, content and social media.” An audience then knows that they will be taking notes on why this is the case, as my speech flows in that direction.
3. Visual reinforcement — Important concepts should be clearly defined visually for maximum impact. In the Content Code speech, I emphasize the economic imperative for ignition — content that moves. When I get to this critical point, there is a slide with a dramatic firework burst and a single word “IGNITION.” I want my audience to “acquire” this idea by imagining their content literally exploding across the web. A main point is delivered with a single word.
Information Needs to be Processed
4. Limit the message — When I was starting my career as a college educator, the biggest mistake I made was trying to jam far too much information into my limited timeframe. I had in my mind that I had to give them their money’s worth but my first students probably left feeling overwhelmed!
If you watch the best orators, they will usually focus on just three main points in their presentation. Believe me — if you can get people to process and remember three things in a 45 minute talk you have been a huge success! Keep it simple.
5. Link messages to stories — The most important way to make your message memorable is to link it to a story. When you tell somebody about a speech you attended, do you relate five bullet points from a slide or do you re-tell a great story that connected to a main point?
Help your audience remember your message by telling them a tale that they can repeat to others later. Stories help people process and explain even complex ideas.
6. Brevity and levity — It’s difficult to pay attention to a speaker for more than 10 minutes at a time, even if you are really interested in the topic. So you need to regard your presentation as a 45 minute battle to keep their attention. Don’t show off by using industry jargon or complicated terms. Keep it as simple, direct, and concise as possible. Have the discipline to take out anything that does not move the story along.
Humor is a great way to keep people connected. When you are funny, every person in the room is suddenly paying attention.
Information Needs to be Connected to Knowledge
7. Make a real connection based on a little research — One of the biggest speaking disasters I ever witnessed was when one of the giants of our business used an example in his speech that ripped a company’s website to shreds. Somehow, he was not aware that the company he was skewering was the sponsor of the event, humiliating the organizers. His presentation was memorable … but for the wrong reasons!
To be memorable for the right reasons, learn enough about the industry you are addressing to know their language, their priorities, and their troubles. The day of the event, glance through industry headlines so you can even reference a current event or avoid an embarrassing issue that is brewing. If you can speak knowledgeably in the language of the industry, you will gain trust and attention right away!
8. Relevance — A speech is only going to be memorable if people can connect it to some important element of their life. If you are giving a talk to an unfamiliar audience, do some work ahead of time to discover the biggest problem you can help solve through your message.
Last year I saw a master class in this technique when actor Kevin Spacey gave a talk at Content Marketing World. The actor began his speech by wondering aloud “You’re probably wodnering … what the hell am I doing here?” He then answered his question by connecting his media experience with the most pressing issues marketers are facing. The man had done his homework!
These are a few ideas to help make your presentation memorable but I am always learning. I am actively absorbing lessons from the success (and failures) of others. Watch how the pros work their magic and I think you’ll start to notice these eight points shining through.
Make sense? What would you add to make your presentation memorable?