Without a doubt, the begining and ending of your presentation are the most important parts of your presentation.
Due to something called the ‘primacy’ and ‘recency’ effect, people will remember the first thing you say and the last thing you say, but as cruel as it may sound, they won’t remember very much in between! And that’s one of the many arguments for keeping your presentation as short as possible.
Recently I experienced a great example of the effectiveness of the recency effect from a presentation one of my clients gave at the end of a presentation skills training course.
I was giving training in Italy in an engineering company called the Wittur Group. Wittur is a multinational company who manufacture components for lifts. I had taught all the course particpants to have a strong beginning to their presentation – to use a hook and to finish with impact. I like to use the term, to leave the audience ‘on a high’.
One of the participants, an HR manager specialising in internal communication and employee engagement in Wittur, chose to present to a fictional audience of University graduates who were looking for a management trainee position with their first employer. So my student chose to focus his presentation on why these university students should choose to work for Wittur. He wanted to give information of course, but his main objective was to persuade and motivate the students to choose Wittur above the competition.
He framed his presentation from the perspective of ‘opportunity’ – an excellent approach as opportunity is always at the forefront of the mind of all graduates. This approach also demonstrated a key learning from the training course; for your presentation to be effective you MUST talk specifically to the audience’s needs and interests.
My student opened his presentation with a relevant hook – a quotation from a famous person about opportunity. He then linked this hook to his key message about Wittur being THE engineering company to work for because of all the opportunities that were available for talented graduates. It’s difficult to remember the details from the middle of the presentation (demonstrating what I said earlier about the audience not remembering much in between the start and finish), but his ending was incredibly powerful.
The ending was incredibly powerful because my student chose to end with a video called ‘Made to Move You’.
This video is by Otis, the global lift manufacturer. The title has a double meaning – it refers to the physical movement of lifts as it transports us between floors and it also refers to how we will be moved emotionally as we listen to its message about the opportunities available to us in life.
Without doubt, ‘Made to Move You’ evokes emotions as a stand alone video. But chosen as the ending to a presentation about career opportunities in a company such as Wittur who produce componts for lifts, the emotional appeal was even stronger because of the superb link to the presentation topic. And THAT is the secret of a great presentation.
To communicate your presentation message effectively you need to do it in a way that is memorable. Use techniques such as stories, images and videos that evoke emotion. The more emotional we feel, the more we will remember.
As Mary Angelou 1928 – 2014 once said:
We all have access to virtually all the information in the world but great presenting and public speaking is NEVER just about giving information. It’s about sharing your perspective in an original way that motivates people to act, think and feel differently. And the most effective way to achieve this is by appealing to the audience’s emotions.
All the students on this course gave excellent presentations finishing with a message that left the audience (us) on a high. But the HR Manager’s presentation about opportunity which finished with this very moving and totally appropriate video was so impactful to me that tears came to my eyes. By causing such a strong emotional response I will always remember this presentation.
When people remember your presentation in the way you want them to, you have been successful.