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How To Visually Save Your Audience From Boredom

How To Visually Save Your Audience From Boredom

“Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple” (Charles Mingus)

You don’t want me to do that, and I wouldn’t, if not out of necessity, believe me.

Once upon a time not long ago, you were requested to do something you wouldn’t do on purpose or even remotely willingly: “John, we need you at the next board meeting on Friday.” Your boss shouts at you, “Please prepare to present our status on the product-strategy, projects, risks and chances, suppliers, clients and so on, you know…”

Immediately, you feel that chill creeping down your spine. The one, unmistakably approaching at times, when something you fear for a reason is going to happen soon.

In front of your eye the following scene unfolds:

Board meetings are one of a kind. They’re lengthy, aiming at — what exactly? Everyone wants to be in the loop about what has happened recently, right? Many, I mean many PowerPoint slides are needed. Up to two hours presenting many numbers, complex correlations of business-processes, projects, suppliers and so on.

After a short while in any of that meetings, the audience, especially on Friday afternoons, tend to do the following:

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  • Being unable to follow up
  • Getting bored
  • Fall asleep

You wish more than anything at that point there would be a way out. Any easier approach, something doable at least would do just well.

Rest assured, there is a surprisingly helpful approach to the rescue.

  • You will calm your fears of presenting many slides on a Friday
  • Get back the control over your audience
  • Stop the audience from getting bored in the first place
  • Even better, make them remember your presentation and engage with you

Clear Storyline

    What’s happening?

    As Antonio Zamora, entrepreneur and founder of Wimz.ch puts it:

    “Take a pen, and the audience switches to the same level as you. Even accepting, you are being the teacher in the room now.”

    In 3 steps, I’m now going to tell you, how you can approach the audience visually and tackle a complex scenario. Creating an image to tell a story will help a lot to attract and engage the audience.

    1. Learn about your “story”

    Message, Content and Visuals are the three essential parts of any successful presentation. Make sure you invest all your knowledge and of course, your creativity to form a substantial body of your play.

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    Do as much as you can, to become an expert about what you will present.

    Studies from Eyeful Presentations show that most presenters have either 1 to 2 hours or a day and more time to prepare for a presentation.

    One way or the other, the most crucial part will be the message. Invest slightly more to what is the central story you want to tell your audience. The other two go as equal parts to the content and visuals.

    2. Visualize your play

    In our example from the beginning, we have many topics to cover. Let’s do it:

    • Product-Strategy
    • Projects
    • Risks and chances
    • Suppliers
    • Clients

    Assuming, those being the main topics, you need to create an image with them as integral parts.

    Wow, I hear you say, how on earth should I do that.

    Well, the bad news is: there will be no golden rule for how doing it.
    On the positive side, you can always challenge yourself. In this example, I show you, there is no rocket science part in it either.

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    Product-strategy can mean many things, mostly it’s something not razor sharp. Hopefully for most of you guys, it’s there, but could equally well exist in a cloud. So why not using that to visualize it?

    Who better than you know, that projects always are like a long road. They will have milestones in it and a beginning and an end.
    Well, scribble a path or road. Why not place any trees on its sides? How’s that, not too hard, right?

    Risks are always something, business professionals fear. For that reason it can be something like an animal that occasionally crosses your path, and you won’t be happy to spot it. A wolf? Yes, why not.

    Chances are what makes your day, they’re shiny and bright, like the sun sometimes.

    A supplier provides products or parts for your company, and the cute Little Red Riding Hood would be just great to visualize just that.

    The clients are nice people all your business is about. They mark the end, or as well the beginning of the road and may live in lovely little homes.

    3. Draw

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    See what we did? We created pieces of scenery that even preschoolers could paint. My point is, in no case be too hard with yourself if you now paint that story.

    Take a piece of paper and combine those little parts in one image. Even better, grab your whiteboard for a spin and just do it.
    After a couple of times trying, you will feel it. The story and with it a remarkable start of your upcoming meeting will visualize in front of you.

    Of course you guessed it: In the end this would make a beautiful scene of the well known fairy-tail The Red Riding Hood.

    Example Visualization

    The following graphics show you even better that you don’t need to be an artist to visualize a great deal of information. Likewise, it’s doable even without being a creativity wizard to start using the drawing for business use-cases.

    Balance
      Symbols-Library
        Meeting

          Background

          Why does it all work that way? The scientific reasoning has a lot to do with how we perceive ourselves and the environment. How do we process and digest that information, learn and communicate with each other?

          Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP is that discipline of the cognitive and behavioral science, that deals with us being subjective humans.

          According to the Business Directory, it even provides the pattern, how words and symbols are used to create mental pictures that our senses use to process the according experience later stored in the brain.

          Please find out more here and here.

          More by this author

          Jochen Burkhard

          Owner Burkhard Consulting

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          Last Updated on January 15, 2021

          7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

          7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

          The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

          Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

          Posture

          First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

          • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
          • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
          • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
          • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

          All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

          Facial Expressions

          Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

          • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
          • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
          • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

          If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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          1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

          A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

          The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

          This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

          2. Relax Your Face

          New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

          The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

          To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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          3. Improve Your Eye Contact

          Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

          The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

          To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

          3. Smile More

          There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

          Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

          4. Hand Gestures

          Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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          It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

          5. Enhance Your Handshake

          In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

          “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

          It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

          6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

          As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

          Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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          Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

          Final Takeaways

          Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

          If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

          More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

          Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

          Reference

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