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Eddie Darroch

Toastmasters International


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Just how memorable are your presentations?


As trainers our words and presentation materials are the tools of our trade. But how often do we stand back and review our own performance?

If we listen to ourselves will we be wowed and persuaded? Are we presenting in such a way that our audience members are guaranteed to achieve their learning objectives and use their new learning once they are back at the coal face?

Can you see the tree or is it lost in the woods?

When presenting you should always offer one big idea that your audience should take away with them. Start with your end in mind and work backwards. For example, if you were running a training session on presentation skills the big idea might be to use memorable language when presenting.

Of course there will be some sub-objectives, but a unifying theme should run through your presentation like a tree trunk. Regardless of the location or size of the branch, it will always lead back to the main idea.

Are you letting PowerPoint win?

Everybody appreciates a memorable presentation at the appropriate moment in a training session. However, the overuse of PowerPoint is an easy trap to fall into, particularly in a corporate environment where the slides form the take-away training materials. We all know in our hearts that this overuse can be the electronic kiss of death for any actual learning.

The imagery you create with your spoken words is the most important.

This is why using memorable language is so vital for all training and HR professionals. You want to run your training or give an important presentation is such a way that makes people talk positively about it afterwards. We know more benefit is gained when people talk about a presentation in an optimistic way, rather than resentfully or negatively.  

Now is the time to listen to yourself and discover if you are using the flexibility of language that will guarantee a great review every time.

Involve all your senses to involve your audience

One way to review your personal performance is to listen to yourself and discover just how much use you are making of all the senses. Here are three examples:

1. Let them picture it

If you fill your presentations with text, graphics and data your audience will pay more attention to that than they will to you and what you are saying. Giving a single image or graph will allow your audience time to digest the visual and, once they’ve seen it, you want to direct their focus to you. The imagery you create with your spoken words is the most important.

For example, ‘The glass broke with the player’s impact’, creates some interest but if you enhance the imagery you will grab your audience’s attention.

‘The Canadian ice hockey player showered the Olympic fans with shattered glass when she was flattened by the hulking opponent,’ creates a barrage of imagery in your audience’s head. ‘Canadian’ sparks an association with a maple leaf, ice hockey rinks are surrounded by glass, and the game is a popular fan sport of the Winter Olympics.

Such use of vivid imagery helps to create more powerful memories for your audience and, trust me, you’ll find it easier to remember your presentation.

2. Sound lodges in your brain

Use words that allow you to express yourself. ‘Galloping’ not only gives a sense of sound but also forward movement, which may benefit a presentation detailing a proposed business change.

Sound can act both as a tool in its own right, but is also brilliant as a backup to reinforce other words or descriptions. When you describe ‘slurping’, you may mentally invoke the poor manners of a child eating her food or an adult’s satisfaction with gulping down an icy drink on a hot day.

In the absence of a Raymond Blanc, what’s the next best thing you can do for your audience?

Musical phrases such as ‘striking a chord’ or ‘clear as a bell’ will inevitably resonate with audiences.

Sound, when used appropriately, can trigger powerful emotions. For motivation the trumpet intro of the Rocky theme or a national anthem strengthens powerful associations for audiences. Heston Blumenthal, the Michelin starred chef, has even served seafood complete with earphones playing the sounds of the sea to enhance diners’ enjoyment.

3. When you can’t bring freshly baked bread

We all rely on taste, touch and smell. When you walk into a house and you smell the enticing aroma of warm fresh bread or cake, you are immediately transported to a happy place.

Wine critics and chefs know that engaging your senses strengthens sensations. Wine critics invariably describe wines with broad terms such as floral, spicy or fruity and then zone in on individual flavours such as rose, cherry or gooseberry.

In the absence of a Raymond Blanc, what’s the next best thing you can do for your audience? Use engaging language to invoke aromas and taste and link concepts to these sensations to make them memorable for your audience.

Let’s not forget touch. Kinaesthetic sensations are often used to describe personal qualities, for example ‘razor sharp’ or a ‘tough cookie’. Instinctively we get the feeling of what such a person is like.

Making it stick

Presentations are clearly a vital part of persuading your audience or adding to their knowledge. Deploying the rhythm and cadence of memorable language with a laser-like focus will vastly increase your success in getting your training objectives to stick.


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Eddie Darroch


Read more from Eddie Darroch

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