How To Engage A Presentation Audience – Use A Theme To Your Presentation

When we think about about a presentation we typically consider the presentation itself, its preparation, planning and rehearsal. But it’s also critical to consider how we engage our audience — how we actively encourage their listening, understanding and belief in us. Just standing on the podium and speaking won’t do the trick.

Fortunately there are some techniques that we can use. And a major technique is the presentation theme. There are 5 things to bear in mind, though, when we use a theme in our presentation.

  1. Make it memorable. Themes help our audience to remember our presentation. And when our audience only retains some 10% of our speech that’s important. Themes are remembered by an audience because they can be. They work in much the same way as logos, slogans or catch phrases. They are typically creative, clever and appropriate for the task.
  2. Keep it simple. Our theme should be both simple and consistent. The simplicity is critical for memory — we don’t want our audience struggling with complexity at this stage of the event. Consistency is all important. We should neither deviate from the theme during the presentation nor be tempted to make adjustments as we go along.
  3. Be practical. Our theme should evoke practicality and purpose. If it has these qualities it will be familiar to our audience and prove more meaningful. Practicality suggests utility and benefit — both are of interest to our audience. When our audience can sense practical benefits attributed to listening and engaging their engagement increases.
  4. Be thorough. There is no need to struggle for ideas when thinking of a theme for our presentation. There are many workable approaches to getting it right. We can talk to the conference organizers. We can establish whether the conference itself has a theme. Or we could identify if our particular day has a theme to it. In either case we should aim to use this theme — or tweak it slightly to our own purpose. Using something that has resonance elsewhere will be productive. As an alternative we can look at all the other presentations on the agenda and establish whether there is a theme that runs through all of them. If there is, then use it. We could also think about some of the pressing issues that our audience will recognize from their work or professional interests. Issues such as: competition, globalization, outsourcing, innovation or quality. Such issues might be both relevant and familiar. Therefore, they could prove useful in building a theme that is practical, consistent and simple.
  5. Consider the objective. As we finalize our theme we should recall the purpose or mission for our presentation. We are looking to achieve something with our audience. Change their ideas. Change their opinions. Or, change something that they do. Our theme should help us in this mission. Both our purpose and our theme should be aligned.

Our audience will only recall some 10% of our presentation. Our task as speakers is to increase that percentage or, at least, ensure the right 10% is retained. A practical and memorable theme will boost an audience’s memory retention and assist their engagement.

Top 5 Ways to Not Present Yourself As a Serious Student

I would like to present the Top 5 Things NOT To Present Yourself As A Serious Student. And to be crystal clear, serious students are those who are interested in graduate school (and more than likely, beat the competition to get in).

1. “Is this gonna be on the test?”
*Heavy sigh* Not only am I not reviewing information just for my health, but oftentimes lessons learned in class are bigger than students realize. Assignments that build in critical thinking questions? These are great preparation for the skills needed in graduate school. Little do students realize, grad school is heavily reliant upon critical thinking skills.

2. “I missed class yesterday. Did we discuss anything important?”
Great way to notify me of your absence from class. And regardless of how it was intended, it is a little off-putting to ask your instructor if anything important was covered in class. Aren’t all classes supposed to cover important material? Otherwise, why are we here in the first place? (And yes, I have actually had a student ask me this question.)

Honorary mention goes to: “I missed class. Can you give me the notes?” It is probably a much better idea to ask one of your classmates for notes than the actual T.A. or professor. Again, off-putting. And a sign that you are not taking this class seriously.

3. “I’m only taking this class because it’s required.”
You know…. As a student, it is your absolute right to proclaim that (1) you’re not interested in my class or (2) you’re only paying attention as little as possible to pass the test. That’s fine. However, it is also my right to decline to lend support should you ever ask for a letter of recommendation.

4. “I know I missed ___ classes, but I need ___ points to make a ___.”
My response? “Wow. That’s interesting. I hope you are not implying that I’m supposed to give away freebie points to bump you up to the next grade.” I once had a student state that he realized there was a strict attendance policy, and despite the fact that he missed nine classes, he felt like he deserved an A. You have really got to be kidding. Ditto to the student who admitted that he failed to attend any of the Thursday lectures for his Tuesday/Thursday class (and wanted to know why he was failing tests).

And last, but not least:

5. Texting, Twitter-ing, or Facebook-ing your way through class.
I love social media as much as the next person. However, there is a time and a place to keep in touch with friends — and classtime is neither. Some people think that large lecture-style classes buys anonymity, and while your T.A. or Professor may not say anything to you, trust, they are definitely taking mental notes.

Now let’s talk about how serious students tend to comport themselves in the classroom. First, they’re very aware that the T.A. may be their main point of reference for judging their ability to do well in graduate school. This is especially the case if you attend a large university where the norm is the 1000 seat lecture hall. It is an absolute great idea to take your classes seriously, communicate interest in the particular subject area (or related areas, like asking the Social Psychology professor how to get involved in Cognitive Psychology), or ask your T.A. for advice on applying to grad school. Remember, your T.A. is very likely the person who will be signing off on letters of recommendation (or even if not, the professor is likely to ask his/her opinion about your ability to do well in grad school). Do your best to impress!

The Present – 7 Ways to Get There

How many times a day…or should I say a minute…are you actually planning ahead to some distant place in your future? Do you even have a clue? Has this habit of living in your head become so rote that you have no idea of how to even broach this question? With all of the worldly demands that we have weighing on our shoulders, it’s a wonder that people ever access the present moment at all. Or is it?

I actually caught myself doing this very thing this morning. While on a beautiful early morning hike (a rarity) with my lovely husband, my oh-so-crafty mind seemed to be on a mission. Actually, it proceeded and succeeded for a few disturbing moments, to bring me up and out of my GLORIOUS present. Let me just tell you, this present moment was quite extraordinary. The air was fresh, (for L.A. can we say miracle?) the woodsy outdoor smells were blissfully intoxicating, a crystal clear blue sky was upon us, a spectacular view of looking down on the entire city had us in awe, no one was else on the trail, my best friend was by my side and we were getting some awesome thigh burning exercise. Yes!

So why in the *%@^ did my mind want to take me out of that feel good place and suddenly have a conversation about, (drum roll please) what we should do for CHRISTMAS?!? Come on, Christmas? Really? It’s early November and all is right in this moment, but my 3 pound chatter brain has other ideas. It wants to transport me out of this divine moment and have me analyze, fret, worry etc…about holiday plans. Jeez, how incredibly ridiculous! Thankfully I became AWARE of this pattern (victory!) and found myself aggressively saying out loud, “I don’t want to be planning right now, I want to enjoy this gorgeous hike. (dangit!)” So instantly I started appreciating all the beautiful things I was enamored with before and magically I became present again. Then I picked up on my husband’s silent thoughts reeling a million miles a minute and I proceeded to get annoyingly hooked in to HIS mind. Wow. If it’s not one mind, it’s another. Enough!

So this is what we’re up against. THIS is our daily work. Our lovely minds are simply doing their jobs of planning, scheming, analyzing etc…and will until the cows come home. However, if we are armed with AWARENESS of when our little friend is pulling it’s number, then it’s a new day and we can take back our true essence of BEING.

So what can we do to stop these mental gymnastics of incessant worrying, planning, comparing and despairing when all we want to do is truly enjoy the Present Moment?

Grab a pen…

1. Take deep full breaths and let your breath anchor your feet to the ground.

2. Notice that subtle internal shift from when you are feeling good to suddenly landing in that busy head space.

3. Stop what you are doing and get out of your head by doing something that brings you JOY.

4. Some possible ways of accessing a state of BEING again are: playing with pets, putting on a favorite CD, doing a little jig, stretching into the yoga position of downward dog, taking a leisurely or a brisk walk, venturing out into nature, giving someone a hug etc…

5. Focus on all of the BLESSINGS in the present moment you are in.

6. Let GRATITUDE saturate your whole body and soul.

7. REPEAT.

Ahhhhh, this magnificent Life of yours.

Isn’t it wonderful?!?