Spell-binding speeches we remember for life usually have two characteristics.
First, the speaker offers memorable stories and second, they illustrate their remarks with great visuals that linger long after their voice has become silent.
How do you use these two techniques effectively to create impact in your own presentations?
Adding stories to your presentation can help your audience identify with you. People see you as a fellow human being with all the usual trials and triumphs as you go about your life.
When your subject matter is highly technical, the occasional story can be used to simplify complex material and make it more manageable. It can also help people remember complicated processes by linking them to your interesting story.
To have the desired impact, your story needs to have three basic components:
- It must be appropriate to the nature of your subject matter and related to it.
- It must be short and easy to understand.
- It must refrain from offending its listeners
We’ve all listened to dozens of speeches that start with a joke and while we might laugh at them, if they don’t relate to the presentation and lead us naturally into a relevant point, they do not serve the speaker well. At the same time, they must not offend people in the audience, either by being vulgar or culturally ignorant, or by including offensive language or terms.
Long stories to make short points are extremely frustrating to audiences. Likewise, stories that refer to circumstances that many members of your audience are unfamiliar with are also disrespectful to your audience and will do nothing to enhance their good memory of your points.
In refraining from offending your audience, remember that more subjects than politics, religion or sex should be avoided. Few people are comfortable hearing your intensely personal stories unless you have advertised your speech to be about your time in a prison or your struggle with mental illness. If you are giving a general speech, avoid revealing too much about yourself on this first date with your audience.
A good rule of thumb is that you don’t think your audience will actually benefit from hearing a story, don’t tell it.
Many of the same rules apply to adding visuals to your presentation. Visuals categorize everything from graphs to photos to sketches to maps, charts and physical objects.
Used for maximum impact, your visuals will do four things for you:
- They will help your audience better understand the point of your presentation and remember it.
- They will help your audience to organize their thoughts about what you are saying, almost as if they were taking notes to review later.
- They will allow you to move and speak directly to the audience.
- They will enhance your credibility as a professional speaker.
To make your visuals more effective, be sure to stand adjacent to them so you don’t obscure the audience’s view and you don’t have to ever turn your back to the audience to refer to them. When you are making comments about the visuals, look at the audience not the visual. Always maintain eye contact with your audience.
Introduce graphs, photos and other visuals before showing them. Tell the audience what you are going to show them and how the information or photo was obtained. Never distribute your visuals or other material before you speak; audiences have a tendency to quickly scan them and tune out.
And, just as with your stories, check and double-check that your visuals support your main message.