6 Behaviors Guaranteed to Bore Your Audience
by Diane DiResta, Diresta Communications
July is National Anti-Boring Month so it’s fitting to share this commercial.
Art Imitates Life. I enjoy watching Progressive Insurance and Geico commercials. Much creativity can be found in short commercial ads. This video, called “Alan’s Happy Place”, really hit home.
As the video illustrates, if a speaker is boring, the audience checks out mentally. And in some cases, they will physically leave the room. Here are 6 ways guaranteed to bore your audience.
1. Reading the Slides– Slides are visual aids. The key word is aid. YOU are the visual! When you read the slides, you’re not speaking conversationally. Few speakers can sound natural when reading. Additionally, reading requires that your eyes be on the slide and not on the audience. You lose the connection when the audience sees the side of your head. A better idea is to allow the slides to be your guide and to reference a point instead of reading word for word.
2. Monotone– A monotone is a voice without highs and lows. The tone does not vary and like a metronome, a voice without vocal variety will put people to sleep. This kind of voice lacks excitement and it’s enthusiasm that engages an audience. The voice brings the message to life and keeps the audience engaged. There are a few reasons for monotone.
- The speaker may not be excited about the topic. If that is the case, find another topic to present.
- The material itself may be dry. But just because you’re reporting numbers doesn’t mean they have to die on the page. Try quizzing the audience with fun multiple-choice slides or polls.
- The speaker may be very nervous and shut down. Work with a coach and start the presentation with a question to the audience. It will take the initial pressure off.
3. All Data– When the CFO yells, “Show me the numbers” you better be ready. But that doesn’t mean you have to present reams of technical information. Ask yourself what is the story behind the numbers? The same is true for scientific presentations. Don’t let the data lead you by the nose. What’s the through line or theme of the presentation? What are some analogies or stories you can tell? Anybody can recite data, but a good speaker can make the data dynamic.
4. No Humor– Attention spans are short. If you’re too serious the audience may tune out. Humor creates high engagement, a sense of fun, and can create a stronger bond with the audience. Speakers who use humor are more likeable. If the audience likes you and what you’re saying they will stay with you until the end. Note that Geico and Progressive use humor in many of their commercials.
5. Too Long- There is a saying in the speaking industry. “The brain can absorb only what the seat can endure.” An audience will sit for only so long before they get restless. Some public speakers fall in love with the sound of their own voice. Yet even an interesting topic can deteriorate into an experience of ennui. Twenty minutes is ideal timing for a presentation. That’s why so many Ted Talks are timed at 18 to 20 minutes. A good rule of thumb is to not exceed 1 hour. Another alternative is to break long content into modules or micro learning. Intersperse long presentations with questions, polls or even physical exercise. Ask the audience to stand or turn toward the person next to them. Body movement will help break up the presentation, add fun, and keep the energy high.
6. No Point- Are we there yet? Any parent with young children has heard that question while traveling in the car. That’s exactly what your audience is thinking when the presentation has no point, and they can’t follow your thoughts. They want to know where you’re taking them. If you’re talking in circles, if your message is cryptic, they won’t try to solve the puzzle. They ‘ll get bored with you and your message and tune out. So, prepare strategically. What is your intention for the audience? How do you want them to feel? What is your desired outcome? You can’t stay on point if you don’t know where you’re going. Once you have clarity, state an intention or agenda up front. The audience needs a roadmap of where you’re taking them. Be clear, stay focused, be engaging on your speaking journey and the audience will come along for the ride.
Anybody can give a Knockout Presentation. Avoid these 6 mistakes and take your presentation from dull to dynamic!
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Diane DiResta, CSP, is Founder and CEO of DiResta Communications, Inc., a New York City consultancy serving business leaders who deliver high stakes presentations— whether one-to-one, in front of a crowd or from an electronic platform. DiResta is the author of Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz, an Amazon.com category best-seller and has spoken on 4 continents. She has unique ability to get to the core of the message and translate complexity into simplicity. Learn more at her website.