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How to make your presentation breathtaking

During a TED talk in 2009, Bill Gates held a container full of mosquitoes. He talked about how malaria kills multitudes in Africa. Then he…

During a TED talk in 2009, Bill Gates held a container full of mosquitoes. He talked about how malaria kills multitudes in Africa. Then he said that he didn’t see any reason why only people from the developing countries should suffer from the atrocities of the mosquito. 

He then opened the jar and allowed the mosquitoes to mingle with the audience!

Although Gates quickly added that those particular mosquitoes weren’t dangerous, that dramatic presentation went viral. 

Sharing an extreme moment is an ingredient that Gates used to make his talk breathtaking and memorable. And it’s one of the three ingredients needed, Carmine Gallo argues, that make presentations outstanding. But you also achieve the same effect with an extraordinary statistic that shocks people. 

For example, during his TED talk, Jon Ronson said: “One in 100 regular people is a psychopath.  There’s 1,500 people in this room. Fifteen of you are psychopaths.”

This way, Ronson gave the statistic life and turned it into something relatable, something emotional. The audience couldn’t help but wonder who the fifteen psychopaths might be.

With so much information and ideas available, everyone is competing for the attention of those who may be interested in their ideas. 

Therefore, the only people who win the attention, those whom people listen to, are the ones who find a way to make their presentation irresistible. 

If only there’s an easy way to achieve that. Indeed there is, argues Carmine Gallo, in the book “Talk Like TED.”

Gallo went through 500 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) presentations of top public speakers before concluding that what impactful presentations share are three:

-They share novel information 

-They connect emotionally with the audience 

-And are easy for people to remember 

I suggest you use the acronym NEE to remember the framework. (N=Novel, E=Emotional and E=Easy to remember)

Gallo also argued that passion is necessary to make your talk persuasive. In this column, we’ll discuss the above and why it’s also necessary for your topic to stimulate more than one of our five senses. And finally how to structure your presentation to make it stick. 

We’ve seen how Bill Gates crated an impactful presentation by sharing an extreme moment. That’s one common component of great presentations. 

The second mark of top public speakers is that they connect emotionally with their audience. One way to do that is through story telling. 

The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, believed that persuasion can only be achieved with the interplay of three elements: ethos, pathos and logos. 

Ethos speaks of your character and values – demonstrated by your education and experiences. These can nudge your audience to trust your opinion and ideas. In other words, ethos gives you credibility. Logos is the logical basis of your argument. It may include statistics, research and other factual information about your presentation. 

The last element is pathos which is the emotional connection with your audience. In Gallo’s analysis of hundreds of TED talks, he found that the most interesting presentations were 65% pathos, 25% logos and 10% ethos. 

You can see that pathos is the most important element in a persuasive presentation. So how do you add pathos to your presentations?

One effective way is through storytelling. Stories are powerful ways to build emotional bond with the audience and make your presentation less abstract. 

You can tell three types of stories. A personal story, such as the most embarrassing moment of your childhood or how you realized the most important thing in your life. 

You can tell a story about others, such as about a friend who always embraces failure and  how he used that attitude to triumphed and achieved a big success; and stories about organizations or companies such as Google which incorporates play into its corporate culture. 

The third component that great presentations have in common is that they are easy to understand and remember. 

There are three ways to achieve this.  One, keep the presentation short. Take TED presentations, they are 15 to 20 minutes long. And don’t introduce more than three themes into your presentation. Here’s where “the more the merrier” doesn’t yield any benefits. 

In 1956, a Harvard scientist discovered that people can remember – on average – seven pieces of new information. Since then, other scientists have reduced that to three to four chunks of information. 

Here’s how to implement this insight: Ask yourself the most important idea you want to convey in your presentation. Write that as the headline.  Then write two or three supporting ideas under the headline. 

Also to make your presentation easy to understand, appeal to more than one sense of our five senses. Use images and text. Sometimes it’s best to use just an image with a text. Steve Jobs of Apple used to have only an image on a slide in his keynotes. 

In cognitive psychology, the next hot field for research is the study of the relationship between multi-sensory stimulation and recall, argues Richard Mayer of the University of California at Santa Barbara. 

erefore, to make your presentation stand out, share an extreme moment or provide something novel, connect emotionally with your audience and structure your ideas in such a way that they are easy to understand and remember.

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