A windowless conference room, on yet another company retreat. A training session for a group of hungover junior employees. An office update in a cold Canary Wharf tower. The settings may vary, but the scene is all too familiar: the audience are disengaged, with every other head bowed to an iPhone as the presenter stumbles through slide after slide.
The combination of big corporate’s insistence on regular meetings, and the fleeting attention spans of the smartphone masses has made it all the more difficult to connect with your audience. Crisp, tidy presentations will no longer suffice in a world where Angry Birds is literally right there.
So what is a business leader to do? When I consider myself, three years ago, I too faced these problems of presentation. However, through extensive research and more importantly practice, I have managed to bring back the excitement, through wordalytics and reconceptualisation.
Make new words
Let me stop you right there, because I know that you are hooked. What are wordalytics? It doesn’t matter. It is a word I made up just now, but it grabbed you, didn’t it? The garden-variety word, constrained by a dictionary-endorsed definition, does not cut the mustard anymore. Everyone knows lots of words, and words they know will not impress them. Create new words, and you grab your audience’s attention.
Don’t talk about cost-savings, talk about antirevenue-extinction. Why talk about hiring when you could instead talk about peopleisation? This technique is well known amongst the connoisseurs, and often has ramifications beyond the presentation itself – the iPad was a word Steve Jobs made up in an investor presentation, and now it is a multi-billion dollar product. Think outside the realms of the English language, and set your presentation free.
Pictures are powerful
Pictures famously speak a thousand words, so if my math is correct, one thousand pictures are equivalent to 1 million words. But what does that mean to me?
Video. Why merely tell your audience about your company’s latest and greatest hiring, when you could instead show a video of the two of you hugging it out? Why use traditional graphs to demonstrate your company’s revenue growth, when you could instead show a video of you, standing on a mountain top? People love pictures, and people love movies even more. Bring your audience to the movies, and you will bring them to their feet.
Time for action
You have brought your audience along on a roller-coaster ride, with new words, and a million words worth of video. What you need now, is more than words. What can possibly be more than words? Actions. And the most powerful actions in your arsenal are the Power Poses.
Research from Harvard Business School indicates that there is a significant benefit to adopting power poses prior to a social evaluation. I have discovered that it is even more effective to adopt such poses in the presentation itself.
Flick to final slide of your presentation, which should be a killer slide. It should encapsulate who and what and why your presentation is. Point to it, and hold that point. Your point should be commanding, and silent. Feel the electricity in the room. And then choose your power pose: this could be standing with arms aloft, with hands on hips like Wonder Woman, or whatever feels most powerful to you. Strike the pose, and hold it. Hold it for a solid 60 seconds, at least. Stare your audience down, to a man or woman, for this is more than words, this is action. When the tension is too much to bear, drop the microphone. You will hear them roar.