Don’t present like your audience has unlimited time, attention or energy

time-attention-energyOne thing you can be sure about when you are delivering your next presentation.  Your audience wish you would finish it quicker, get to the point sooner and wrap it up faster.  Your audience don’t have unlimited time, attention or energy. So don’t present like they do.

If you see people’s eyes glazing over, notice sighs and hear yawns, you are in the “dead energy zone” from which no memories emerge. Your audience is switched off and waiting for you to finish. Those who are less polite will walk out.

To become a better presenter, you need to understand how memory works.  One technique to learn is called spaced learning.  Advocated by Dr John Medina in his book Brain Rules and put into practice in a school in the UK, spaced learning stops trying to force information on the brain. Instead it aligns with how memories are actually formed.

Spaced learning uses intense learning periods of 20 minutes, interspersed with 10 minute intervals of physical exercise that requires hand-eye coordination, such as juggling, basketball and plate spinning. Sounds barmy right? But the results are amazing.  Students who took a 90 minute class on biology had a 58% pass rate. A year late taking another science subject and this time four months of conventional class study the pass rate went up to only 68%.

The technique is fast and uses “hooks” and visual cues to stimulate the learning points. How can you introduce gaps in your presentations where the audience can take abreak, move around and then be ready for a quick review when they return.  You need different versions of your presentations. Insert “check slides” which have gaps in the key messages and ask the audience to fill in the missing words.  Have handouts that ask key questions about the messages. Insert more five minute breaks (keep it to exactly 5 minutes though!) and don’t be afraid to go back to skim through your slides.  Above all, dump your text-based slides for visuals that use pictures and slogans. Make your slides resemble billboards.

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