Dear Great Speaking Coach,
I work really hard to create one powerful message for each slide. In fact, I usually write this as a tag line or 'bumper sticker' across the bottom of each slide. As I conclude my remarks on each slide I emphasize the message with my voice and sometimes even a gesture. But very often my audience seems to miss these because they'll ask me questions later that show they weren't listening. What can I do to ensure that they hear the most important message for each slide?
Bonnie V., IT Solutions Architect
You'll learn to address this problem if you spend some time yourself as part of various audiences. From your seat, observe the audience watching and listening to a presenter using slides. You will this clearly observe this pattern, time after time.
- A new slide appears and audience members sit up a bit straighter, refocus their eyes to the front, stop note taking
- The speaker mildly introduces the topic with the intention of leading up to the most powerful point. These are what you refer to as tag lines or takeaways or bumper stickers.
- After 10-15 seconds audience members slump or slouch, look around, resume note taking (or browsing, texting, etc.)
- The speaker eventually gets to the key point, then quickly moves on to the next slide.
- The audience did not hear the key point because they'd already drifted away.
Why does this happen day after day across all businesses and topics?
Because the introduction of a new slide is the most compelling moment--there's a new visual, there's movement and we're curious. So we pay attention. And we'll pay attention over and over again as each new slide is projected.
This is the perfect moment for the speaker to make the most compelling point for that particular slide. Never again will you have the vast majority of the audience paying as close attention as during that first 10-15 seconds. The longer you speak on a slide, the less attention is being paid, so if you make your most compelling point just as you prepare to turn to the next slide, you reach only a tiny fraction of the audience.
Once you've seen this from your seat in the audience, you'll change your own presentation practices. Deliver the strongest, most memorable idea first. Making this simple adjustment will change the dynamic and the impact of your presentations. This is 'attention-getting opening' at its best and most audience-friendly.
You will have to practice and rehearse this new technique a few times to ensure that you master it and maximize the benefits. We've been so socialized to do the opposite that it will take commitment to master. It's not about changing the content, though; it's only about changing the order in which you deliver the content to maximize impact. Then your hard work on the taglines will pay off.