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Memorable Presentations

I often think about what it takes to make a really good presentation, one that leaves a lasting impression.

My teen-aged daughter, who attends a specialized Arts high school for their drama program, shared these tips:

  • Vary your pace and voice to keep people’s attention. Don’t overdo it. Constant manufactured excitement can get either boring or overwhelming.
  • Know what you want to say, but establish a connection with the audience.
  • Look after your voice. Drink water and speak from the diaphragm.

Three presenters stand out for me. What made them memorable?

  • The conference presenter that came across as a combination southern preacher and auctioneer was very entertaining. He certainly varied his voice and pace to keep our attention. He was well prepared and had some fancy moving slides. I was so overwhelmed that I can’t for the life of me remember what he was talking about. I remember the man rather than the message.
  • The no-frills lecturer with poignant stories of the plight of Canada’s First Peoples kept us enthralled for three days. He used the traditional story-telling approach to teaching. He stood alone in the centre of the room with no props, no gimmicks, just his voice. With a deep understanding of how audiences learn and absorb information, he would introduce a topic, tell a story to build on it and finish with a segway into the next issue. He made himself available for questions during breaks and after the end of the day. We couldn’t get enough. I still remember almost every word.
  • The retired general could fill a room with his presence. Somehow, he seemed to speak directly to each one of us, no matter where we were sitting in the large conference hall. That took some serious voice training, but it also reflected his approach to leadership. His message and his slides were simple: It is all about people. Two things struck me – his humility and his ability to connect. Although a retired high-level General, he had a self-deprecating humour that set us all at ease. We could all nod and say to ourselves, “Hey, I know what you mean!”. He made us laugh, he made us think, but most importantly he made us feel that we too could be leaders.

I guess what made these presenters stand out is that they left something behind, a presence, a message or a feeling.

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