Posted: 05 Jul 2016 04:00 AM PDT
Whether you are a teacher who wants to deliver an interesting lecture to students in the classroom, a marketer presenting in front of important customers, or the CEO of Apple trying to impress his fans at the yearly event, you all have the same challenge: how to present like a super star, in a way that your audience will never forget..
After analysis of hundreds of the most successful lecturers in the world, one can say that there are five important rules on how to create a presentation that is clear, memorable and, most of all, fun.
1. Tell us a story
It’s no secret that most people prefer to hear a story over the formal lecture of a professor or a salesperson who simply sticks to the topics in his slides. A good story is one that has a beginning, middle and end. It seems simple, right? How many lectures have you attended where you felt like you did not understand where the lesson was going?
A good presenter is a story teller. He will lead the audience step by step throughout the story. Each step is based on the previous stage. The story has clear logic. There must be a clear connection between the story parts.
At the beginning of the story, give as much information as possible so the audience will understand the problem or the subject you are planning to teach. When you get into the middle part of your story, explicitly mention that you are stepping into the next stage of the story by saying something like: “And now I’ll describe the solution” or “Once we understood the problem ….” This helps your audience to understand that they are entering the next stage of your story.
Now that you have finished the middle section and provided the solution or taught the main subject, it is the time to check if the audience understood the lecture by moving forward into the last part – the summary. You should explicitly state that you are entering the summary part by using a simple statement such as “To conclude our lecture…” or “We have learned that …”
The proper weight of the story is:
- 15% for opening and general description
- 75% for the middle section
- 10% for the summary of the story
The best practice is to plan your story even before you start creating your slides. Take a blank page, draw three rectangles and write inside as shown in this example:
2. People are visual
After you finish creating the structure of your story, it is time to prepare your slides. The important thing to remember is that the slides are meant for you, the teacher, not for the students. After all, the students came to see and hear you and not your slides. Otherwise, you could simply email them your slides, couldn’t you?
A common mistake of lecturers is to load a lot of text into the slides, and then facing their backs to the students to read from the slides. Unless you are a teacher in first grade, give credit to your students that they can read the text for themselves.
The right way is to use pictures. As large as possible, interesting, and ideally, funny. It’s easier to remember a picture and connect it to a story, than to remember text you wrote on the slide.
Still want to add some text? That’s OK as long as it will not exceed 3 lines with large font. Such text can help you remember the subject you wish to talk about. As we have said, the slides are meant for you.
3. Monotony: Only if you wish to make them sleep
How many times have you been crying with laughter at a stand-up comedy show only to find that when you tried to tell the same joke to your friends later, nobody laughed?
What is the difference? After all, it’s the same story, with all the same details and yet, it’s just not funny to anyone now.
It all depends on intonation of speech. If a slideshow were a movie, intonation would be the background music. Even the most interesting subject in the world can put the audience to sleep within a few minutes if the lecturer is monotonic. Like the story has ups and downs, the pitch should follow the same way. Change your pitch, play with the speed and volume, engage the audience by using words of enthusiasm when you get into the climax of the story. But also remember to decrease your speed and volume and relax the listeners at the low moments of the story.
“Compose the music” of your lecture at home. Speak to yourself and hear the intonation. If it is pleasant to your ear, it will be pleasant for your students.
4. Make it short and then cut it by half
Let’s do a little experiment. You find a link to a video on a subject that interests you and then press the link to play it. How many of you checked the length of the movie during the first few seconds?
Now, let’s assume the length is 60 minutes long. How many of you will immediately stop watching?
Students are far more time-sensitive than teachers are. Even if you think that the lesson deserves its 60-minute time, simply divide it into parts.
TED talks, which feature the best lecturers in the world speaking on highly engaging topics, are all between 8 and 10 minutes long.
On our website theLearnia where you can create videos in minutes, we restricted the video lesson time to 15 minutes. The timer counts down to remind the teacher to focus on the most important messages within the designated time. In our observations, we found that students often leave after an average of 4.5 minutes.
Even if you have a lot to say, consider that nobody will be there to listen after the first 5 minutes.
5. Practice, practice and more practice
Let’s take Steve Jobs as an example, who is considered one of the greatest presenters of our generation. He practices for days before the annual presentation of his next product launch. He enters the auditorium, closes the door to visitors and practices for days. He brings all the accessories, executes the demo software, and opens the envelopes again and again, just to make everything flow as smoothly as possible.
No one is born ready to lecture. It is a matter of lots of practice, learning, fixing mistakes and practicing again. If Steve Jobs could spend whole days before a lecture, you can also invest in practice prior to each lecture, especially if you are not quite up to his skill level.
The good news is that there’s a relatively short learning curve, and each practice will produce substantial improvement relative to the time before. It just becomes easier and more professional over time.
Perhaps you already know some or even all the rules specified here. However, I have found that despite the theoretical knowledge required for making a fascinating lecture, most instructors repeatedly return to their comfort zone. They rush to prepare the presentation, load too much text on their slides, and often create a presentation so long that even they have not enough time to present it.
Recall Diet Coke’s old slogan:” Less is More” and plan your presentation in accordance with the rules in this article. Beyond improving your personal presentation skills you’ll be surprised by the positive feedback from your students.