Ever wish prepping for your next presentation was as easy as packing for a camping trip? Tent, check. Sleeping bag, check. Everything you need fits on a tiny piece of paper. It’s impossible for presenters to reach such simplicity, or at least it was until Susan Weinschenk wrote 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People.
Weinschenk’s book is a concise collection of truths revealing the art and science of persuasive presenting. The psychology Ph.D. sifted through and conducted research to equip every presenter with powerful takeaways. Some of our favorite takeaways are summarized below.
The Power of the Unexpected
According to research conducted by Gregory Burns, the human brain craves the unexpected. In a brain-scanning experiment, Burns found that people’s brains are equally active when experiencing pleasure and surprise. Apply a few unexpected surprises to your messaging in front of a crowd and you’ll find that pleasant surprises will peak an audience’s awareness.
Take it 20 Minutes at a Time
Have you ever noticed TED Talks creep up to the 20 minute point but hardly ever breech it? There could be some science to this length. Maureen Murphy found that when presentations were 20 minutes or fewer, audiences learned more initially and retained more information a month after the fact. If you have to go over 20 minutes, break up presentation and give the audience a breather.
Get Them Writing
When people write things down (especially in longhand on paper), research about brain activity shows they’re more likely to remember information regarding what they’ve written. Encourage people to commit to what you’re saying by writing down the most important parts of your presentation.
Mistakes Aren’t Always Bad
Put any group of people in a room, and mistakes are bound to happen. Although they can be uncomfortable, there’s actually an upside to a mishap. For starers, people appreciate it when someone admits to their mistake. If you make a mistake as a presenter simply acknowledge it and move on.
On the audience side, research shows making mistakes help people retain information. To use this to your advantage, create a series of activities where people branch off into small groups. Make sure that the environment feels safe for participants, and give them a chance to work through the items at hand. Research by Jonathan Downar shows this kind of environment increases attention not only during the problem solving period, but afterwards as well.
First Impressions are Lasting Impressions
As much as we hate to admit it, people size each other up quickly. For this reason, a presentation’s introduction is of the utmost importance. The way someone introduces you to a crowd also matters, so if you’re being introduced don’t hesitate to give that person feedback on how you’d like to be introduced.
Want more takeaways to step your presentation skills up a notch? Grab 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People and let us know how the book helped you.
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