There are no boring topics-only boring speakers. Just about every audience and coaching client has heard me make that statement about public speaking. Recently, a client proved my theory at a corporate conference. He and his team were charged with creating a panel presentation to introduce the new compliance directives and expectations. Are you falling asleep yet? If you were a public speaker would you be panicking about how to keep people's attention? Unless the topic of compliance is your passion, or you're a trained actor, you'd be wondering how on earth you could possibly make this subject dynamic and interesting. But they did! Here's how:
The presenters wrapped a Star Wars theme around compliance. The presentation began with a Star Wars- like graphic slide complete with music and scrolling text.They substituted compliance terms into the text about the challenges of the galaxy.
After the slide faded to dark, the presenters walked on stage. When the lights went up the audience saw the panelists standing with lasers. The moderator walked center stage and spoke his opening line directly to the audience. But wait. There was more.
As the panelists were seated, the moderator looked around in surprise One of the panelists was missing. After much curiosity, the last panelist entered as Princess Leia dressed in white. She appeared as an imaginary hologram portending the future and then left the stage. She returned as herself and took her seat. By this time the audience was laughing, engaged, and revved up.
The panel discussion continued smoothly as the audience was truly primed to listen. Midway during the panel, to avoid any monotony, the panel called R2D2, complete with sound effects in one of the slides. The moderator then announced a Question and Answer session.
And.just when you thought it was safe to be boring, the first questioner turned out to be Darth Vader in costume. He caused a commotion with his comments and his laser and was quickly escorted out by "security". The panel ended on a high note I'm sure it will be talked about for some time to come.
So what can we learn from this creative approach to a dry topic?
Wrap a dry topic in a dynamic, familiar theme. Movie and book titles are good sources for ideas.
Use music and sound effects to create excitement and emotion. This is especially potent when the audience recognizes a theme song. It can be as brief as a chorus or refrain.
Create visual interest. Props, graphics, and costumes are an alternative to slides. A prop can be a dollar bill or it can be people from the audience. The idea is to stimulate all the senses.
Trigger the element of surprise. The audience was not expecting Princess Leia and Darth Vader to appear in the audience. A simple magic trick or quick poll can be the source of the unexpected or unknown.
Leverage technology. Presenters don't have to rely exclusively on PowerPoint. Videotape an interview or talk to a remote site using live streaming.
Have fun. What made a boring topic exciting is that the presenters were having fun. Nothing engages an audience like laughter. When you're having fun, you abandon fear and become fully present in the moment and with the audience.
And that means never being boring again.