A forgettable presentation is delivered by a low-energy guy. He may fidget or fumble. He reads from his slides in a monotone and expects you to just sit there and listen. He’s boring. But some presenters are exciting! What they say sticks with you for years to come. An exciting presenter moves around a lot, varies the tone of her voice, uses gestures. She brings a game to the presentation that you play to experience what she’s talking about. She teaches you a song that helps you remember the lesson. Which type of presentation do you think is more effective?
What could be a more boring way to learn than going into a classroom and watching the teacher show some dull, uninspired PowerPoint that he inherited from the last guy who had the job? Sitting in a seat, taking notes, listening and not speaking…that’s called passive learning. Sure, it’s possible to teach that way, but it’s no fun for the students. Unless they take great notes, the lesson they just sat through will be but a distant, painful memory in a very short time. The same teaching style can be found in the business world as well; think about any number of tedious presentations you’ve had to endure.
Now think about other, more memorable classes or presentations you’ve attended. What was different? Maybe the speaker was more animated and didn’t rely on PowerPoint slides for the script. Maybe he engaged the audience in a lively debate on the subject. Or perhaps he introduced a game or let you play around with stuff until you figured something out. When students take an active role in their learning, the lessons stick more firmly.
How it’s done
Here are five ways you jazz up your audience during your next presentation!
1. Get up, get moving
Having the audience stand up and walk around is a great way to bring the energy back to a tired room. Maybe you could demonstrate an office exercise move, or walk to another location to continue the presentation. Or what if, right in the middle of your presentation, you asked everybody to get up and switch chairs? There are any number of ways you can get your audience to actively leave their seats. Be creative!
2. Play games
Kids learn a lot of new skills by playing games. Why should they have all the fun? Games and puzzles give your audience a fun way to work together and demonstrate their understanding of what you’re teaching. Make it a competition if you want the audience to get more excited!
3. Sing a song
Quick, recite the Preamble of the US Constitution. If you are a Gen-Xer or a fan of 70s Saturday morning cartoons, chances are that this tune from Schoolhouse Rock! just popped into your head:
I learned this song when I was 10 and to this day it is the only way I can remember the Preamble. Songs help us to remember facts that otherwise could seem lifeless and dull. Could there be some fun way to get your point across in song? Granted, this approach probably won’t work in the boardroom, but I’m sure you can think of some situations where this might be a useful tool.
4. Role play
By acting out what they just learned, your audience can put their newfound knowledge to work. You can also use role play to get people thinking about things from someone else’s point of view. You might have a real wise apple in your class who pretends to be the most obnoxious customer, the stupidest user, or some other kind of difficult person during role play. This is an opportunity for your audience to think quickly on their feet to adapt to this extreme character while still demonstrating the techniques they’ve learned.
5. Hands-on demonstration
I could describe how to make a peanut noodles to a group of people, then give them the ingredients and tell them to make it themselves. Or I could have all of the ingredients available at the outset and involve everyone in chopping the vegetables, cooking the noodles and making the sauce. After that, we’d combine everything and sample the fruits of our labor. Which instructions do you think people will remember better? If there’s some way for you to get people to make, touch, smell, taste, play with, or use something in real life, it’ll make a longer lasting impression than just talking about it.
Think back on a presentation you’ve given or a class you’ve taught. Is there a way you might incorporate any of these techniques the next time you present?
Image of Ben Stein © Paramount Pictures. “The Preamble” © The Walt Disney Company.