Captivate your audience

classroom1In an interview with Olivia Mitchell, Rowan Manahan mentioned that during an effective presentation, the audience should be “captivated without knowing why”.

When you do a PowerPoint presentation without those dreadful bullet points, you will find that your audience will pay attention to you and at the end of the presentation, they will come up to you and compliment you on keeping them awake.  But very rarely will they notice that they have not been bombarded with bullet points. They just know they you have captivated them and they don’t know why!

This happened to me when I did my 2-day seminar on environmental regulations in southern California a month ago. The topic of environmental regulations can be deadly dull. An attendee came up to me at the end of the two day seminar and said:” I don’t know what you did. But I was paying attention to you all two days.”

So – try it. Try it without bullet points and see the results! You will like it and your audience will like it even more.

10 responses to “Captivate your audience

  1. Doesn’t surprise me to hear this, Norman. You’ve always been ahead of many in terms of building effective presentations. Would love to know how you took a dull topic and compelled the audience to listen the entire time.

  2. Thanks Meryl for your kind comments. It has not been easy to captivate the audience. In addition to using slides that have no bullet points, I tell a lot of stories that are based on my past experience as a corporate environmental manager. The people in the audience tend to relate to these stories because they can see themselves in similar situations. I never give handouts before the presentation. I don’t want them to read the stuff while I am talking. I give them pieces of paper to take notes. The reading material is handed out at the end of the seminar.

  3. Reminds me of my days on a working party to come up with a product common coding system for seven SAP systems, each of which had been implemented on their existing factory sytems… boring but if one can create a common vision based on the Art of Possibility then the “boring work ” has an exciting outcome.. “it enables us to…..”
    I guess Norman that you had a narrative running through your 2 days… tell us some more tidbits!!

  4. Jim – my narrative is pretty simple. I tell them my own stories that they can relate to. For example, I will tell the class that this is what the law requires you to do and this is what some idiot (usually a company executive) is trying to prevent you from doing the right (legal) thing. My story would tell them how I handled it when I was a corporate environmental manager. Behind a visual in the Powerpoint slide, there is a story. It is kind of fun. Telling stories and getting paid. Enabling the class to understand and see themselves in the same situation is the key. They are not likely to doze off when they can visualize it.

  5. Hi Norm, To keep people engaged for 2 days on the topic of environmental regulations is an achievement. I’m currently writing a post on making boring presentations interesting and coincidently I’ll be using a presentation on compliance with environmental regulations as my case study. So I will link to this post and quote some of your advice. Olivia

  6. I think your last sentence is important… when they can visualise it they become engaged in helping you tell the narrative… I can remeber getting responses where people added their anecdotes to the narrative I was following and so enriched it for the whole room of people… letting people have a space to visualise is so important… but it means letting go of control… which is presenting without the bullets!

  7. Olivia…thank you. Jim, another challenge I find in any seminar is to get the audience to participate and ask questions. I always tell them there is no such thing as dumb questions – only dumb answers. The story telling makes them feel at ease and more prone to participate. I also never over-dress. I am alsways as informal as the class in terms of attire. That is one of the many problems attorneys have when they make presentation. They always over-dress and end up looking stuffy and snobbish. They can never connect with their audience this way.

  8. I never thought of not using bullet points, but now I’ll have to see if it makes a difference. My curiosity is definitely piqued!

  9. Cat,

    Give it a try. I think you will see the difference.


  10. Pingback: 8 Presentation Tips for beating Audience Boredom : Speaking about Presenting

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