Give your audience what they need

The University of Vermonts Outing Club hold their club council elections once a semester– our normal meeting format had been changed so that everyone had a chance to give their speech to the entire club. One after another, candidates walked up in front of the lecture hall and gave their 2-3 minute platform speeches. Some of them leaned against the chalkboard (One of my biggest pet peeves), some of them stood behind the large desk – a few had shaky voices, and a few were fairly confident. The problem was that they all got up, spoke, and sat back down – like they were performing a well-rehearsed choreography, the same thing over and over again. I watched my friend, Abby, stand up and walk to the front of the room now filled with disengaged and bored individuals. She was running as the Social Chair and I was eager to see what she had to say. Without saying a word, she placed her computer on the desk and plugged into the halls sound system, she pressed her space bar and “Celebrate Good Times” by Funktown America blasted through the hall. Heads popped up everywhere to see her dancing back and forth to the rhythm, eventually turning it down so she could tell us all about her plan for an Outing Club Prom, and Outing Club Sadie Hawkins dance. She ended up winning her election by a pretty big margin – but not because of her ideas. The OC Prom and Sadie Hawkins dance was nothing new – we did it yearly! She didn’t have much content to her speech, but she knew how to capture, sustain, and capitalize on her audience’s attention.

The next time you’re giving a presentation, or a speech, or any public address for that matter, be mindful that the beginning and end are what the audience will remember. Trying to justify using a “Raise your hands if you’ve ever…..” kind of question as a hook is only hurting yourself. I challenge you to do something different, do something energetic, do something that involves a story or capture your audience’s emotion! When people hear music, their entire brain is stimulated, not just the parts devoted to understanding “EDGE”, so – obviously – the brain remembers it easier. Human brains are story telling machines, they will follow and remember a story much faster than it’ll take them to memorize the stages of team development by name.

Don’t just do a hook because its on your presentation plan form, your audience is investing their most valuable possession into your presentation – time – make it worth their while, and give them something to walk away with.