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‹ View all articles 1st August 2011

Make your message stick: the "RULE" of memorable presentations

How to Inspire

We’ve all sat there listening to yet another dry presentation, with yet another powerpoint presentation. You know the one – it has a nice neat title, four or five nice neat bullet points down the side, a company logo and – if the speaker’s feeling really crazy – a clipart in the bottom right hand corner, ‘just to add some fun.’

The trouble is that when the brain has seen a format so many times, it switches off. And your message is lost. So how to you become a more memorable speaker? Let me tell you the ‘RULE’ of Freshness…

The trouble starts with the word ‘professional’. Even speakers who don't technically fear public speaking, often fear saying something ‘unprofessional’. And it's understandable.

If speaking in public isn't an environment you swim about in day-to-day, your nerves will be heightened by the task. You already feel pretty silly standing up to talk, your brain then chips in with a resounding 'No, don’t make me!' and there's that voice inside your head dying to tell you how much people are judging you. 'Whatever you do, don't screw up. And for god's sake, be professional.'

This desire to be professional leads to us giving exactly the same presentation as everyone else. If ‘professional’ means sliding unnoticeably alongside what everyone else is saying - job done. If professional is to be bland, then another job done.

But wait a minute. How many of those 'professional' presentations have you sat through? You probably don't have enough fingers. And how many of them can you remember in any detail? Do you even need any fingers to count those? Speakers who focus on being professional and mild, are in fact doing everyone in the room a disservice. Far from being pleasant and inoffensive to listen to, they are subjecting their audience to a presentation which they won't remember and their organisation, project, or whatever they care enough to talk about is losing ground over presenters who make their message stick.

So what does it take to make your message stick? My book, How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking goes into detail about three broad areas that make your message stand out. How can you use each differently to make your speaking more memorable?

1) Visual aids How you use your powerpoint, flipchart, props, or physical space to engage, or disengage your audience. Do you ever do a presentation without powerpoint? What if you pre-prepared a flipchart or powerpoint with no words- only pictures and numbers?

2) 'Verbal aids' The nuggets of gold that come out of your mouth. These could be metaphors, poems, a personal story, a famous example, a joke, quotes, powerful facts, collections of three or buzz phrases to repeat. These all add variety, depth and emotional buy-in to a presentation. They also provide a good opportunity for you to stimulate both the left, logical part of the brain and the right through powerful evidence, emotional part of the brain through rapport-building stories.

3) Interactivity My personal favourite is to get audiences involved in information as people far & wide learn best by doing. This could be something so simple as a brainstorm, or elaborate like a challenge, quiz, team game, or role play. With any interactivity, make sure that your full energy goes behind the task, so as to motivate others to get involved.

But before you run off and play, you need to learn the key to making your memorable messages work. That’s the RULE of Freshness. To be memorable in a way that helps your message any visual, verbal or interactive 'nugget' that you slot into your presentation should be:

R - Relevant Somewhere along the line, we were told to "start with a joke." This is like saying "Start with something to distract the audience, then you can get into the really boring bit." Any tool that you use should link clearly to your message and should enhance and emphasise it , rather than pull away from it.

U - Unique The unusual or unexpected often has the effect of tricking the brain out of its stereotypes and leads to the creation of new neural pathways. This means your message will be remembered for a longer period of time.

L - Learning The best nuggets progress the audience’s understanding of your topic. Give your audience insight and they'll see you as an expert in your field. Repeating or reiterating key learning points reinforces this.

E - Engaging A truly memorable presentation excites or stimulates a part of the audience's mind - whether it's their imagination, their motivation, or their logical mind. Seek to create "ooh" and "ahah!" moments with what you say, show and do.

Stick to these rules and your presentations will start to stick. Next time you do a presentation, pick a new way to use your visual and verbal content, or interact with your audience in a new way. Give whatever nugget you choose to use the "RULE" treatment.

Give yourself permission to experiment.

The RULE of Freshness is featured in How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking: Any Audience. Any Situation by Sarah Lloyd-Hughes. Freshness is one pillar in the Public Speaking House – one of the qualities you can develop to become a Brilliant public speaker.

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