Three Things Are All You Need
How do you want to be remembered? No, not after your final breath . . . but after your next presentation. Your audience will remember at most three things about your presentation. It’s important to make sure you make those three things as obvious as possible and don’t cloud the field with too many facts or ideas.
That’s why it’s critical to have a theme. In Presenter-Pro, we spend an entire module on “developing a theme” – Habit #6. Your theme can take any of several different forms. It can be a mantra (a phrase or word that is repeated several times within your presentation), a prop or a sound, a phrase that is introduced at the top and reinforced at the end, etc. A central theme keeps your audience focused on your main point and if carefully worked into your presentation, it’s the thing they’ll remember long after they’ve left the room.
How do you come up with a theme? Well, the tools I like to use are brainstorming and word association. I use a piece of software called ThoughtOffice (you can find it at http://www.thoughtrod.com/). Associated with this program are a number of modules that attach to the core engine that help you to focus your thought processes toward the needs of various professions. We’re in the midst of developing our own version, entitled eXpert Presenter.
You can use ThoughtOffice to search multiple databases of words associated in some way to the ones you “plug in.” Mixing and matching will usually produce a “catch line” that will be memorable and support your main point, or the solution you’re proposing.
If the software isn’t an option, you can go about this the old-fashioned way – by herding a group of your peers into a room and getting them to throw out the first things they think of, given the key point of your presentation.
To spark the most creativity, be sure to develop an open atmosphere that doesn’t dissuade even the craziest of ideas. Often these will spark other ideas, or a combination of associated words will give you a play-on-words that does the trick!
Once you’ve settled on a main theme, go back through your presentation and re-write it to take advantage of your theme as much as possible. Weave it into the fabric of your presentation, or if it’s a prop, think about how you can maximize its impact. Maybe you want to allude to it and keep your audience guessing as to what it is, only bringing it out into the open at the end. Or perhaps you want to start with it by introducing it and then gradually unveiling all the ways it impacts on your main point.
There are many ways to effectively use a theme. Your imagination and feedback from your peers will set you off in the right direction. And that’s the thing that will make your presentation stand out from all the others!