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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 April 6, 2020

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

Most discussions on positively influencing others eventually touch on Dale Carnegie’s seminal work, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Written more than 83 years ago, the book touches on a core component of human interaction, building strong relationships. It is no wonder why.

Everything that we do hinges on our ability to connect with others and formulate deep relationships. You cannot sell a house, buy a house, advance in most careers, sell a product, pitch a story, teach a course, etc. without building healthy relationships. Managers get the best results from their teams, not through brute force, but to careful appeals to their sensibilities, occasional withdrawals from the reservoir of respect they’ve built. Using these tactics, they can influence others to excellence, to productivity, and to success.

Carnegie’s book is great. Of course, there are other resources too. Most of us have someone in our lives who positively influences us. The truth is positively influencing people is about centering the humanity of others. Chances are, you know someone who is really good at making others feel like stars. They can get you to do things that the average person cannot. Where the requests of others sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, the request from this special person sounds like music to your ears. You’re delighted to not only listen but also to oblige.

So how to influence people in a positive way? Read on for tips.

1. Be Authentic

To influence people in a positive way, be authentic. Rather than being a carbon copy of someone else’s version of authenticity, uncover what it is that makes you unique.

Discover your unique take on an issue and then live up to and honor that. Once of the reasons social media influencers are so powerful is that they have carved out a niche for themselves or taken a common issue and approached it from a novel or uncommon way. People instinctually appreciate people whose public persona matches their private values.

Contradictions bother us because we crave stability. When someone professes to be one way, but lives contrary to that profession, it signals that they are confused or untrustworthy and thereby, inauthentic. Neither of these combinations bode well for positively influencing others.

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2. Listen

Growing up, my father would tell me to listen to what others said. He told me if I listened carefully, I would know all I needed to know about a person’s character, desires and needs.

To positively influence others, you must listen to what is spoken and what is left unsaid. Therein lies the explanation for what people need in order to feel validated, supported and seen. If a person feels they are invisible, and unseen by their superiors, they are less likely to be positively influenced by that person.

Listening meets a person’s primary need of validation and acceptance.

Take a look at this guide on how to be a better listener: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

3. Become an Expert

Most people are predisposed to listen to, if not respect, authority. If you want to positively influence others, become an authority in the area in which you seek to lead others. Research and read everything you can about the given topic, and then look for opportunities to put your education into practice.

You can argue over opinions. You cannot argue, or it is unwise to argue, over facts and experts come with facts.

4. Lead with Story

From years of working in the public relations space, I know that personal narratives, testimonials and impact stories are incredibly powerful. But I never cease to be amazed with how effective a well-timed and told story can be.

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If you want to influence people, learn to tell stories. Your stories should be related to the issue or concept you are discussing. They should be an analogy or metaphor that explains your topic in ordinary terms and in vivid detail. To learn more about how to tell powerful stories, and the ethics of storytelling, take a look at this article: How To Tell An Interesting Story In 4 Simple Steps

5. Lead by Example

It is incredibly inspiring to watch passionate, talented people at work or play. One of the reasons a person who is not an athlete can be in awe of athletic prowess is because human nature appreciates the extraordinary. When we watch the Olympics, Olympic trials, gymnastic competitions, ice skating, and other competitive sports, we can recognize the effort of people who day in and day out give their all. C

ase in point: Simone Biles. The gymnast extraordinaire won her 6TH all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships after doing a triple double. She was the first woman to do so. Watching her gave me chills. Even non-gymnasts and non-competitive athletes can appreciate the talent required to pull off such a remarkable feat.

We celebrate remarkable accomplishments and believe that their example is proof that we too can accomplish something great, even if it isn’t qualifying for the Olympics. To influence people in a positive way, we must lead by example, lead with intention and execute with excellence.

6. Catch People Doing Good

A powerful way to influence people in a positive way is to catch people doing good. Instead of looking for problems, look for successes. Look for often overlooked, but critically important things that your peers, subordinates and managers do that make the work more effective and more enjoyable.

Once you catch people doing good, name and notice their contributions.

7. Be Effusive with Praise

It did not take me long to notice a remarkable trait of a former boss. He not only began and ended meetings with praise, but he peppered praise throughout the entire meeting. He found a way to celebrate the unique attributes and skills of his team members. He was able to quickly and accurately assess what people were doing well and then let them and their colleagues know.

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Meetings were not just an occasion to go through a “To Do” list, they were opportunities to celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small they are.

8. Be Kind Rather Than Right

I am going to level with you; this one is tough. It is easy to get caught up in a cycle of proving oneself. For people who lack confidence, or people who prioritize the opinions of others, being right is important. The validation that comes with being perceived as “right” feeds one’s ego. But in the quest to be “right,” we can hurt other people. Once we’ve hurt someone by being unkind, it is much harder to get them to listen to what we’re trying to influence them to do.

The antidote to influencing others via bullying is to prioritize kindness above rightness. You can be kind and still stand firm in your position. For instance, many people think that they need others to validate their experience. If a person does not see the situation you experienced in the way you see it, you get upset. But your experience is your experience.

If you and your friends go out to eat and you get food poisoning, you do not need your friends to agree that the food served at the restaurant was problematic for you. Your own experience of getting food poisoning is all the validation you need. Therefore, taking time to be right is essentially wasted and, if you were unkind in seeking validation for your food-poison experience, now you’ve really lost points.

9. Understand a Person’s Logical, Emotional and Cooperative Needs

The Center for Creative Leadership has argued that the best way to influence others is to appeal to their logical, emotional and cooperative needs. Their logical need is their rational and educational need. Their emotional need is the information that touches them in a deeply personal manner. The cooperative need is understanding the level of cooperation various individuals need and then appropriately offering it.

The trick with this system is to understand that different people need different things. For some people, a strong emotional appeal will outweigh logical explanations. For others, having an opportunity to collaborate will override emotional connection.

If you know your audience, you will know what they need in order to be positively influenced. If you have limited information about the people whom you are attempting to influence, you will be ineffective.

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10. Understand Your Lane

If you want to positively influence others, operate from your sphere of influence. Operate from your place of expertise. Leave everything else to others. Gone are the days when being a jack of all trades is celebrated.

Most people appreciate brands that understand their target audience and then deliver on what that audience wants. When you focus on what you are uniquely gifted and qualified to do, and then offer that gift to the people who need it, you are likely more effective. This effectiveness is attractive.

You cannot positively influence others if you are more preoccupied by what others do well versus what you do well.

Final Thoughts

Influencing people is about centering your humanity. If you want to influence others positively, focus on the way you communicate and improve the relationship with yourself first.

It’s hard to influence others if you’re still trying to figure out how to communicate with yourself.

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Featured photo credit: Wonderlane via unsplash.com

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