Effectiveness is defined as the degree to which you are able to reach a desired outcome. When it comes to presentations we must become masters of effectiveness, because in the words of Eminem “you only get one shot.” As funny as it may sound to say those words out loud, they really do ring true when it comes to presentations.
According to a study completed by Maureen Murphy at University of North Texas the ideal length of an effective presentation is just 20 minutes. Maureen Murphy tested this idea in an experiment. She had adults attending a 60-minute presentation at work and tested to see the difference in memory and reaction to the same talk given in one 60-minute-long presentation, versus a presentation that had 20-minute segments with short breaks in between. What Dr. Murphy found was that the people enjoyed the 20-minute chunked presentations more, learned more information immediately after, and retained more information a month later.
What that means for us as presenters is that we only have 20 minutes at a time to capitalize on our audience, we better make it the most effective 20 minutes we can. If we want to master effectiveness there are three elements every presentation must contain.
Start with an engaging opener.
According to Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov found that all it takes is a fraction of a second for a person to make a first impression judgement about a stranger, they also found that longer exposure does not necessarily result in a change of that impression. I know that may be a startling statistic, but it is important that we understand the first few minutes of our presentation are vital.
As presenters we must use our opening minutes to build rapport with our audience, connect with their emotions, and humanize ourselves. It is also important to remember to smile. If people are making a judgement about us in the first few seconds we want our body language to communicate warmth, not nerves, or anxiety. Because remember it takes a lot of work to unravel a bad first impression.
Use inspiring stories the illustrate our content.
At Ethos3 we have talked a lot about the importance of stories. We have shared statistics, like stories result in a 26% increase in information retention. However, if we want to be effective in our presentations just telling stories is not enough. Our stories must illustrate our content. It is not enough to have our audience laughing and connecting with us on a human level if we never bring the story back around to the point.
I see this mistake often in young presenters. They tell a great story, they draw the audience in to the moment, and then they move on to their next point leaving the entire room confused as to why they spent the last 5 minutes hearing about the presenters grandchild. Don’t make that mistake, always begin crafting your story with the end in mind. That way you will land the plane and connect the dots for your audience creating not just inspiring but effective stories.
Finish with a clear call to action.
I still remember high school assembly after high school assembly filled with motivational speeches, a room full of mildly engaged adolescents, squirming around on uncomfortable bleachers. I remember the feeling of pain as I tried to get comfortable, the smell of the 9th grade boys’ body spray, and the thought that I hope this finishes early so I can be first in line at lunch. What I don’t remember is the point. What exactly were they trying to get us to do?
Call to actions are an integral part of every presentation. They are the piece that motivates people to do something about what they have just heard. Whether you are making a sales pitch, teaching a lecture, or motivating a room filled with pre-teens this principle is the same. If we want our presentations to be effective we must give our audience a clear call to action. We must invite them into a next step. If we miss this step the entire presentation will have missed the mark. Don’t chicken out, don’t shy away. Be confident in the call and make the ask.
Effectiveness is something we all strive for. If we are unable to be effective there is no real point to presenting in first place. If you are interested in making your presentations more effective be sure to sign up for the presentation mentor online course, this course will help you create outstanding presentations that not only wow your audience but move them into something new. Sign up online at PresentationMentor.com.