Why is it that two different teachers can present exactly the same material but one will leave their students bored and lethargic and the other will enthuse, leaving them hungry for more?
More often than not, it’s their style of teaching.
When some teachers teach, it can feel like they’re reading straight from a text book. They make no attempt to engage their audience or make the topic entertaining.
Instead, they drone on, never pausing for breathe.
Great Teachers Know Better
Great teachers know that for their students to learn, they have to be engaged and engaging them means making an impact.
When you make a real impact on your audience, they not only take what you say on board but also become motivated to learn more from you.
Even better, they’ll tell other people about you.
It’s why it’s not enough to enlighten, you must engage your audience and to do that you’ve got to entertain them.
How to Entertain Your Audience
We’ve found that the notion of entertaining an audience, often leaves people feeling cold.
The overwhelming reaction is “it’s hard enough getting up on stage in the first place and now you telling us we’ve got to be entertaining as well???”
But being entertaining doesn’t have to be scary and certainly doesn’t have to take you out of your comfort zone.
It’s about finding ways to present your content that’s interesting, makes it easy to consume and most importantly is highly relevant to your audience.
A good example of how to do this well can be found in one my favourite films from the 80s – Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
For the uninitiated, Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) is the story of two surfer dudes from San Demas, California who are flunking high school. Ted’s father is an ex-Army officer who has threatened to send him to Military School, should he fail to graduate.
The two friends have one chance to save Ted from this fate worse than death.
They have to get an A in their history report, which requires them taking a famous historical figure and suggesting what they would think of San Demas, were they alive today.
What’s worse, the report has to be presented to the whole class.
What follows is some of the funniest time travelling shenanigans and mayhem committed to film.
The finale of the film is their report. Needless to say they get an A but for good reason. They use a number of powerful tactics that earns them a standing ovation.
Take a look below. It’s about 7 minutes long.
While your next presentation certainly doesn’t need to have the production values of Bill and Ted’s, there are a number of lessons we can learn from watching them in action.
Here are 5 important takeaways:
Get Introduced to the Front of the Room
Bill and Ted are introduced by Billy the Kid. This is a savvy move because Billy is someone the audience can identify with. He’s a kid (well kind of), he’s a trouble maker and even better, he’s cool.
When you get someone that the audience can identify with and more importantly who the audience respects, you establish your own credibility and heighten the expectation that the audience is about to get something of real value.
Essentially, Billy’s introduction is entertaining. He doesn’t stand there struggling over some text that Bill and Ted have written for him. He talks from the heart, bigs them up and for dramatic effect, shoots his gun into the air.
Acknowledge Your Audience
Before Bill and Ted start their presentation they acknowledge all the different people in the audience. This gesture is as old as Friend’s Roman’s and Countrymen but is often missed these days.
When you acknowledge the different people in your audience, you make them feel a part of the experience. You get them involved.
If you’re not sure who you’ve got, a nice way to do it is to ask who is in the audience and welcome them.
Something along the lines of…“Who do we have in the audience? Put your hand up if you’re a business owner, a manager or sales person. I’d like to welcome you all here today.”
Props are used throughout Bill and Ted’s presentation to help explain the concepts they are communicating.
The costumes, the weapons and the historical characters are in themselves all props.
Props bring your presentation to life. They are a visual representation of the information you want to communicate and offer an extra dimension to your presentation.
When you use props you make your presentation content more accessible.
Employ Action to Create a Reaction
The problem with so many presentations is that they are static. When things stand still they’re boring. Think about your journey home when your train gets stuck in a station.
When you bring action into your presentation you generate a reaction from your audience. Bill and Ted’s presentation is full of action from the sword fight with Joan of Arc to the acrobatic display from Genghis Khan.
Not that you have to act. You can bring action into your presentations through the use of video or by making use of the whole stage.
Make Your Content as Relevant as Possible to Your Audience
Relevance is possibly the most powerful tactic that Bill and Ted use.
Here are some examples:
- Bill paints a clear picture of the time that Socrates comes from by comparing it to Led Zeppelins Houses of the Holy album cover
- Ted peaks the audience’s interest in Socrates by comparing him to Ozzy Osbourne
- The language of the whole presentation is in the vernacular of the audience. This is especially powerful during the Abraham Lincoln segment
- Instead of trying to explain what psychoanalysis to the audience, the boys get Freud to talk about Ted’s relationship with his father. Something that every person in the audience can relate to
- Beethoven’s music plays throughout the presentation giving the presentation an extra dimension. However, instead of classical, he plays his music in a contemporary style
There are many more. Let us know in the comments below if there are any more that you spot that we’ve missed.
End with a Bang
Too many presentations have weak endings. They just kind of fizzle out. Which is mad when you consider that this is the stuff that you audience is most likely to remember.
Don’t be tempted to wind down. Hit them with something big.
Like Abraham Lincoln, it might be the message you most want them to take away or you could take a leaf out of Hollywood’s book and leave them on a cliff hanger. Something that demands further investigation.
Remember the end of The Empire Strikes back!
While the standing ovation is a cool thing to get, the most important aspect of the audience’s reaction is their desire for more.