Blaire Palmer is a keynote speaker and a world authority on leadership and the future of work. A former BBC Journalist, she shares her insights from 20 years of coaching and provoking leadership teams with conference audiences all over the world.
Picture this. You’re at the bar. You see a nice looking person trying to get the bartender’s attention. You scooch over and offer to buy them a drink.
Why do you do that? Because you think they’re thirsty?
No way! You have a motive. Maybe you want to get to know them better… Maybe you’re trying to make someone else jealous… Maybe you know they run a business and might have a vacancy for someone like you…
Whatever the reason, humans rarely act without intent.
It’s the same when you give a presentation. You want your audience to do something or to change how they think about you or your ideas.
People don’t change their minds or take action just because they’re presented with the facts. They take action or change their minds when they are touched emotionally in some way. It’s why the best adverts try to evoke emotion instead of just focusing on the facts AND why, despite ourselves, we cry at a Kleenex ad. It’s very clever and manipulative, dare I say.
Bottom line is you HAVE to generate emotion, a feeling in your audience if you want them to take something away.
But how do you do that??? Read on and find out…
Choose three emotions
You want to take your audience on a ride, which means they feel different emotions at different times. For instance, you might want to start by shocking them. That will make them sit up and listen. Then you might like to reassure them. You’ve got the problem in hand, and you can fix it. And finally, you might want to inspire them. You want them to do something specific when you finish talking.
Even when they are aware of this concept, many presenters choose three emotions that are basically the same such as “feel educated,” “feel informed,” and “feel clear.” That’s going to result in a rather bland presentation and really just an excuse to fire lots of facts and data at the audience, which is not what they want!
Instead, find some better emotions to generate. Here are some ideas – https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_emotions
It can be fun to pick three words randomly and then figure out what you would say if these were the emotions you wanted to generate. How about disgust, fear, and love, in that order? Or pity, surprise, anticipation? I’m not suggesting this is how you make your final selection, but playing around with emotions when you start structuring your presentation can actually help bring it to life. Maybe there is a way to ‘disgust’ your audience initially by sharing data that should make them disgusted about the topic you’re presenting about, and willing to hear the ideas you have for fixing the problem.
Structure your presentation
Rather than structuring your presentation around your key messages, you can structure your presentation around emotions.
You may start by reassuring your audience – this might mean discussing your background, how you got this role, and why you’re the right person for the job. Then you may want your audience to feel astonished, which might mean sharing some facts about how big the opportunity is or how fast progress can be made. And then finally you might want them to feel calm. If they take the series of actions you are going to outline, the problem will go away. Simple.
Remember your presentation
Structuring a presentation around emotions also helps you remember where you are and what you’re going to say next. If you get lost, you can think, “I was going to start by getting them to feel nostalgic. Done that. Ah yes, this is the bit where I surprise them”.
“SURPRISE!” Just kidding… you’re going to have to do a little more than that if you want to surprise them.
Writing a presentation to create an emotional reaction in your audience will make you more creative as well. Try it, and you’ll notice you start to use different language; bring a different kind of energy, tone of voice, and body language to your screen presence. You’ll come up with stories to get the response you want, images that bring people to the emotional level you want them to be at, and most of all, you’ll be speaking more from the heart, which makes you sound more engaging.
All of this creates connection and engagement AND makes your presentation more memorable. Whatever your motive for speaking to your audience, you’re more likely to achieve it if you generate emotion.
Blaire Palmer is a speaker mentor. Reach out to us if you’d like her advice or help on how you and your speakers can give presentations that inspire and engage their online audience.
Blaire has also created some additional free resources for you, which you can access here. It includes resources like cheat sheets to help you write a strong opening to your presentation and ways to identify the areas you need to work on to give an online presentation that knocks people’s socks off.