Colorful Powerpoint slides. Youtube movies with bombastic background music. Product dummies on the table and flow charts on the whiteboard. Beamer on the ceiling and remote control on the presenter’s desk; next to the infrared pointer and the whiteboard pens. Black, green, red and blue. Branded pencils and a thin desk pad invites participants to make notes, play crosswords or freely design whatever is on their mind. The pad serves also as a soft cushion for all digital devices; smartphone, tablet. They have all been invited to go on ‘silent’ mode.
Presenter, message, audience and tools; it’s all there. Now, it can’t go wrong. However, on slide 4 we get a picture of a sailboat in the Caribbean Ocean and my thinking fastly moves to our upcoming holidays. Next is a video from a renowned business consultant on ‘8 pitfalls in leadership development’. His high floor office window looks over Central Park; before he’s at point three, my mind is jogging through the park. Then I notice my colleague next to me is drawing a speedboat on his notepad. Another one types something on his smartphone and two others are admiring how the wind is playing with the early autumn leafs of the courtyard trees.
This is not strange to you. You have all been there; whether it was a consultant’s presentation, an internal budget meeting, a team building session or a quarterly review meeting. It happens everywhere; very likely also when you yourself are on stage.
So here is the trick for getting superior attention in your next meeting. You’ll surprise them all; they’ll probably say you are crazy but I guarantee, your message will get through.
- Condense your presentation to the minimum; make it max 10 minutes.
- Get all the rubbish and distractions out.
- No slides, no movies, no sounds; just your voice.
- Start with: ‘This presentation about … will be short; only ten minutes. It will be in a slightly different format then what you are used to. I would welcome your attention and at the end there will be a Q&A.’
- Now close the window curtains and switch off the lights. Make sure it is pitch-dark in the room; black as night. You can’t see the audience and they can’t see you.
- Start your presentation.
- When finished, switch on the lights and repeat your key message in 20 words max.
- Now invite for questions.
Disclaimer: irrespective of the quality of your message, don’t apply this approach just after a heavy business lunch. But for the rest, it will work as a) the audience will be surprised by your tactic and surprises always attract attention. And b) there are no other messages –read distractions- in the room; there is nothing else other than your voice and your expert content.
Of course, also for the audience there are only benefits as they can be sure of a message transfer without fooling around. Your speaker will very likely go straight to the point and will not hijack your mind with colorful pictures or non-verbal signs. You’ll hear the point; you’ll FEEL the point. You’ll be sure of fewer distractions. And also here it applies: less is more.
So, who dares to enlighten the audience in the darkness? I’ll welcome your success stories and comments.