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7 Presentation Tips to Mesmerize Your Audience From the Start

7 Presentation Tips to Mesmerize Your Audience From the Start

When giving a presentation, you want to immediately capture the audience’s attention in order to ensure they hang on every word you say. You probably know how important it is to show your audience something rather than beat them over the head with your explanation, but there are many ways you can go about doing this. Use the following tips to “wow” your audience, and make what you have to say truly understood by everyone in the room.

1. Tell a story

Start your speech off with an anecdote that relates to your presentation’s overall theme. It can be a personal narrative, or a story relating to a famous individual. Whichever you choose, make sure it’s meaning is blatantly obvious by the end of it. Once you finish relaying the story, quickly transition into the “meat” of your speech. For example, if your presentation revolves around the idea that it’s never too late to do something great, you might choose to talk about author Frank McCourt, who penned the Pulitzer Prize winning Angela’s Ashes in his mid-60s. Telling a story before diving into your point makes what you have to say much more tangible to the audience.

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2. Ask a rhetorical question

A rhetorical question is a question posed not to be answered straight out, but to be used to further the speaker’s point or idea. Lawyers often use rhetoric during their opening and closing arguments in order to sway the jury’s perspective on a certain issue. Rhetorical questions often do not have one correct answer, especially until more information is gleaned about the situation. One such example is the question, “Is it wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family?” Since there are many facets to the question, in order to answer it succinctly the audience must hear more about the situation at hand. By opening with a rhetorical question, a speaker ensures the audience will listen for more information as he continues his presentation.

3. State a shocking statistic or headline

The evening news thrives on shock value to keep its audience tuned in and on the hook for the entire hour. “A child was rushed to the hospital after ingesting this common product that you probably have in your cabinet right now. Stay tuned to find out more.” Regardless of what other news is discussed for the next hour, you will be glued to the TV waiting to see what could have been so deadly (and it’ll turn out to be rat poison, or another painfully obvious product). While I wouldn’t condone keeping your audience on the hook through trickery, if the statistic you use directly connects to your overall theme, it’s a great way to get them to listen.

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4. Use a powerful quote

Quoting a well-known world leader, philosopher, or activist is incredibly effective in getting your audience to care about what you have to say. After all, if a well-respected individual in history took the time to discuss or debate the topic, it must be important. Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, and in turn many civil rights activists have used King’s words in their own fights for equality. When using the words of another, you should work to extrapolate on their ideas and ideals, and use rhetoric to further your cause. When you use the famous words of a popular historical figure, you ensure your audience knows just how important your presentation will be.

5. Show a photograph

It’s definitely cliche, but a picture is worth a thousand words. There’s not a single warm-blooded person in this world who wouldn’t be moved to tears upon viewing the infamous picture of Phan Thi Kim Phuc running naked down the street in Vietnam after a US napalm strike. That single image conjures up memories of Vietnam War-era America, from the protests to the thousands and thousands of deaths, to the atrocious way our veterans were treated upon their return. And the message it sends is loud and clear: War destroys lives. The perfect photograph for a presentation sets the stage for the remainder of the speech, and portrays to the audience just how passionate the speaker is about what he has to say.

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6. Use a visual aid

At the risk of sounding redundant, a visual aid is useful in that it helps the audience physically see what the speaker is saying. Visual aids are most productive when discussing statistics in some way, so the numbers can actually be seen on a graph. They can also help make numbers and statistics come alive, rather than simply being read aloud. For example, when giving a speech on the dangers of tobacco, you might choose to show a visual aid which uses stick figures to represent each cigarette-related death over the course of a year (though for that, you might want to use a computer screen in order to fit every figure onto one screen). Hearing that six million people die every year from tobacco-related illnesses might sound like a lot, but actually scrolling through six million tiny images will make that number really come alive for your audience.

7. Play a video

I’m thinking of the videos I saw when taking a defensive driving course. As a teenager with a new license, all I wanted to do was get in the car and drive. Of course, I’d known of the horrors of driving recklessly, but talking about them and actually seeing them are two different things. By actually showing a video of a potentially deadly car crash before discussing how and why it happened, the presenters were able to drive (sorry) their point home clearly and effectively. And I’m absolutely positive we all buckled up the second we got in our cars to drive home that night.

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Featured photo credit: Martin Luther King, Jr., giving a speech, while George Meany, also at the speakers’ table, listens/Kheel Center via farm6.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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