I’ve watched a lot of TEDTalks, which by some accounts, are high-quality presentations. In many cases, the speaker is talking to a room of strangers. And for many of the speakers, they are well-established experts, entertainers, etc., who by the nature of their discipline, be socially removed from the audience.
In other words, they may not need to “connect” with the audience, on account of their greatness. I think of the Jeff Han video/presentation demonstrating Multi Touch interfaces (before the iPhone came out). That stuff was so cool, he didn’t need to sell himself.
But for many of us, when we present, we have the opportunity to interact with a real audience (unlike watching a pre-recorded TED Talk). And if we are really selling something (a product, an idea, or a new behavior), then it behooves us to interact, else we may not be very successful. (After all, we’re not all Jeff Han’s, with amazing new technology to demonstrate that appears to most as absolute magic.)
I’ve seen the opposite of connection happen. I think about this a lot, because I want to improve and get better. Here are ways I’ve thought about connecting in presentation-like situations:
- Greet some of the people informally as they arrive.
- Stand outside the presentation room and greet people, coming in.
- Start with some questions to draw people in with responses.
- Let people know you’re glad they are with you.
- Provide some irresistible promises (“I’m going to make you very very hungry in the next 5 minutes…”)
- Tell a story with humor or other strong emotions.
- Aim to inspire change.
- Always summarize to make sure folks know if they got the main points you wanted to convey.
I recently saw a presentation that was good, by most accounts from other attendees. It had room for improvement, for at least one reason, it “told” a story that wasn’t a story, really. A situation was shared, details that seemed important were shared, but… there was no real “story.” I bet this happens in a lot of classroom presentations, too. “Here’s the content, but we don’t have time to make a connection.” The connection may be the most important thing.
In my case, this “non-story” story was a presentation of facts. They needed to come out. But simply by changing the beginning, it would have been so much better. “XYZ is an amazing product, and let me tell you why.” Then the end would be, “What do you think? It did this, that, and that, too. And that’s the value we see in adopting this product, and I’d invite you to chat with us later to learn more.”
If you read that, you’re wondering, “well, what are the details about the amazing product?” You want to know. All because of a simple sell at the start.