Do exactly as I say!

God knows I’ve sat through some boring presentations in my time – I think we all have. It’s worse for me though, because I’m a presentation skills teacher. I have to listen! The worst moments are when I realise, somewhat belatedly, that the presenter has stopped speaking and is now looking at me expectantly for some constructive criticism, when I’ve been in a dream throughout!

However you’ll be glad to hear I’ve hit upon the chief reason why presentations are boring and you’ll be surprised to know that it isn’t because the speaker has used the wrong font or too much text on their many many many  PowerPoint slides (if only the equivalent amount of effort could go into rehearsing a presentation as goes into making the slides – but that’s another story).

What makes a presentation boring? It’s when the audience, namely me, has no idea why they’re listening to the talk in the first place. What’s the point? Or rather, what’s the objective of the talk? What do you want your audience to do – or maybe feel – when you get to the end?

A revealing psychological study (Ross & Nisbett, 1991 The Person and the Situation) makes this point memorably. They say we must S-P-E-L-L out precisely what we want our audience to do. It’s no good saying ‘work harder’ or ‘work smarter’ if we don’t know exactly how to go about doing that.

So always finish your work presentations with a call to action. Don’t be afraid of patronising your audience with a detailed and exact set of instructions of what you want them to do – because doing that works.

This entry was posted in Persuasion. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *