“There is no such thing as a boring project. There are only boring executions.” So said Irene Etzkorn, one of the United States’ leading experts on plain English writing and simplifying communications.
Many of us will be faced at some point with communicating information on a boring subject. But what is boring? Cell mitosis, Massachusetts tax codes, the rules of football, town meetings, plumbing…these might seem like dull topics. But presented in the right way, each of these topics could come alive and be fascinating! And no matter what the subject, somewhere in the world there lives an enthusiastic fan. The trick is to channel that enthusiasm and spread it around.
Here are some things you can do the next time you’re faced with presenting on a “boring” subject to make it more interesting for you and your audience:
Tell a story
People have been storytelling since time immemorial. Stories are relatable, repeatable and memorable, making them excellent vehicles to convey information about your subject. For example, if you’re talking about bankruptcy law, don’t just list the steps that one must complete in order to file for bankruptcy or talk in strictly legal terms. Tell the story of an actual person who has gone through bankruptcy proceedings. What were they doing before it happened (accumulated then blew through a massive fortune, suffered a tragic accident, ignored warnings from a trusted advisor, became the victim of identity theft, etc.)? How long did it last? How did it affect their financial lives afterwards? A juicy story can really make a subject come alive!
When I redesign presentations for my clients, I always, always always include photographs. Not only do photos break the monotony of text, they can communicate ideas far more effectively and quickly than words often do. Not that it’s impossible to paint vivid mental pictures using words; writers do this all the time. But presentations are about the performance of the speaker and the visuals. People don’t attend meetings and presentations to read evocative passages. They’re there to learn, and the more efficiently you do it the better for everyone.
What does this picture say to you? I’ll bet your response is immediate and unambiguous!
Don’t just stand there, DO something!
Here’s a clip from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that shows a very uninteresting teacher:
His monotonous voice, his lack of movement and his boring body language all add up to a huge snooze. By varying the pitch, tone and tempo of your voice you can make what you’re saying more interesting. Using expressive body language and broad gestures can grab and hold your audience’s attention.
Bringing things that engages the senses really make a presentation interesting! I know of a sales rep from a local egg farm who instead of just talking about the omega 3 fatty acids in the eggs or the cage-free environment the hens enjoy, he cooks up a batch of scrambled eggs when he’s making his pitch. He lets prospective distributors see, smell and taste the eggs he’s trying to get them to sell. How cool is that? Think of things you could bring to your next presentation that would help your audience to better understand what you’re talking about.
Think like your audience
Finally, think about your presentation from the audience’s point of view. If you were talking to yourself, would you be interested in what you have to say? If you can’t imagine what that’d be like, ask a colleague, friend or family member to listen to your presentation and offer suggestions for improvement. Getting a fresh perspective can really help you to improve!