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Public Speaking Tips – How to Make a Dull Subject Interesting

Picture of a pimped up VW camper Van with caption "How to make a dull subject interesting

Sometimes we have to speak about topics that our audience may initially find boring or dull.  Our challenge is how to make a dull subject interesting, relevant and memorable.

Recently I heard a presentation on IT for small business owners that pushed all the right buttons.  Afterwards, I thought I would share some of the techniques that the presenter used so that you too might be inspired to turn any topic into an entertaining presentation.

Opening:

This presenter, Kieren Williamson from Assits, started with a health and safety announcement, but not the usual one about fire drills, etc. No, he started by warning us that his presentation would contain singing!

This got an immediate laugh and aroused our curiosity. He went on to say that earplugs were available should anyone need them, and brandished a big bag of disposable ear defenders.

So what can we learn from this?

  •  Humour can be a great way to break the ice and relax the audience

  • Arousing curiosity right at the start gets the attention of your audience

Key message clarity

Kieren clearly had thought about what he wanted us, his audience to take away.  More importantly, he had thought about how he could make these messages “sticky” so that we would remember them,

His first message related to the importance of having an up to date copy of all your relevant business data. Backing up in other words!  So how did he get this message over?

He started with a slide headed the three golden rules.

This immediately got us thinking.  What might the three rules be?

Then he gave us rule one, in a calm, matter of fact voice.

“Backup your stuff.”

Then he moved on to rule two, which he delivered in a more animated and louder voice.

“BACKUP YOUR STUFF”. Everyone laughed.

Then he gave us rule three in an even more dramatic voice

“NO REALLY! – BACK UP YOUR STUFF”

Everyone laughed and there was a buzz in the room.   Now most presenters would have left it at that but Kieren didn’t.   After explaining in simple language how to do a proper backup, he showed a picture of composer Ludvig Van Beethoven and told us that Beethoven had originally written a song about backing up.

After a deliberate pause that got us thinking, he proceeded to sing the words “backup your stuff” to the famous Beethoven melody Dah Dah Dah Dah… (Beethoven’s 5th Symphony)

Well everyone was laughing, and Kieren got a huge round of applause.

He went on to communicate two other key messages, each of which was also illustrated by an amusing anecdote and a song!

At the end of the presentation, everyone was talking about it, and Keiren was surrounded with people asking about his presentation and his business.

Afterwards, I checked the associated LinkedIn group and the words “Backup your stuff”, were used by many people!   Had he got his message across?  Absolutely!

So how did he increase the stickiness of his message?

  • He had a simple, & clear message – backup your stuff!

  • He used repetition to increase retention – the three rules

  • He  used humour and aroused curiosity by linking the Beethoven and Backup was inspired

  • He used music and rhythm and vocal variety by linking the message to a well-known melody!

Brain research shows that the more hooks we can create linking our message and our audience’s experience, the more memorable our messages will be.  This is especially crucial when we have to make a dull subject interesting.

Thanks Kieren for a wonderful presentation with really useful content, delivered in a method that was engaging, entertaining and memorable.  I can’t wait to hear you speak again.

PS. Kieren is in a competitive business. There are hundreds of IT support companies within a 50-mile radius of where he lives.  He understands that he needs to stand out from the crowd if he is to win more business.  He also knows that speaking to groups helps him get his messages across to a large number of potential clients in a short time.

Kieren’s key message is “We are different”, and the way he delivers it certainly supports it!

3 Comments

  1. Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss) on 12/01/2014 at 05:33

    What an entertaining account of a great talk! I was hooked and wanted to keep reading.

    Recently I wrote about how to make your talk memorable, but it sounds like Kieren used a few techniques I didn’t cover! I especially like his clever use of Beethoven’s 5th to anchor his simple core message in people’s heads. What a great idea!

    Thanks for sharing these great tips – I’ll tweet your post too, as it’s a cracker.

    • Gavin Meikle on 12/01/2014 at 15:17

      Thanks for the comment and the retweet Craig. I enjoyed reading the post you mentioned too and would recommend it to my readers. Best wishes, Gavin

    • Gavin Meikle on 12/01/2014 at 15:43

      Hi again Craig and thanks for sharing this brilliant TED video. I have updated the post with a link to your own post and also the video. Cheer Mate.

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