At this time of year (5th November) in the UK it is traditional to have a bonfire and a firework display to commemorate a 400 year old terrorist by the name of Guy Fawkes. Back in 1605 Guy Fawkes planned to blow up the House of Lords with barrels of gunpowder. Luckily for the members of parliament he was caught before he lit the fuse. It may seem odd to commemorate a failed terrorist in this way but that’s what we do.
Up and down the country large bonfires are lit with an effigy of Guy Fawkes on top and fireworks are let off. When I was a kid most people had bonfires and fireworks in their back gardens followed by baked potatoes roasted in the ashes of the fire. These days it is far more common to pay to attend a public firework display with hot dogs and hamburgers to eat.
But that’s enough of a history lesson the main point of this article to compare a business presentation with a firework display to see what tricks and tips we can learn from an organised firework display to help use with creating and giving a business presentation.
One of the first things to consider is the layout of the arena. You want everyone to see the fireworks, in a presentation it is vital that everyone can see the speaker and the slides. The presenter is the most important visual aspect of a presentation, so stand where you can be seen. Don’t hide behind a lectern.
Firework shows usually start with a big noisy rocket, that first bang tells everyone the show is starting and grabs their attention and sets the scene for the rest of the show. Similarly in a business presentation, you want to start with a bang. Say something impressive, which will grab your audience’s attention, make them think about your presentation topic and set the scene for the rest of the presentation. First impressions are important, imagine how you would feel if a firework display started by someone wandering around holding a sparkler.
Firework displays are tightly choreographed with a variety of different types of fireworks, some with loud bangs, some screamers, others that are quieter but shoot high up into the sky before cascading down like glittering snow. Red, green, silver, blue and gold, all the colours of the rainbow provide a constantly changing and evolving spectacle. Variety is what keeps you interested when watching a display.
The same is true in your presentations. Once you have captured your audience’s attention you need to use variety to keep them interested. In a presentation variety is provided in a number of different ways. Don’t talk in a constant monotone voice, vary the pitch, the speed of delivery and the volume of your voice to add emphasis to the word you are saying.
Use different forms of anchor to make you main points more memorable. Anchors can be anecdotes, analogies, acronyms, activities, quotations, props or humorous asides. Every main point you make in a presentation must be ”anchored” to make it more memorable but you should use different types of anchor for each different point, thereby increasing the variety inherent in your presentation.
As for your visual aids, pictures are more visually impressive than bullet points, especially pictures which fill the screen. Like fireworks big bold displays that fill the night sky are best.
By the way when have you ever seen an order of service or an agenda for a firework displays that sets out what you are going to see and hear in detail? I think the same is true for a business presentation. Don’t start with an agenda slide. Keep some suspense and surprises in your presentation, it will encourage people to actually listen to find out what it is you are saying.
All good firework displays build to a crescendo, finishing with the loudest, brightest, biggest and most spectacular fireworks. How do your presentations end? Do they fizzle out with a question and answer session or that over used phrase “thank you for listening”.
The end of a presentation is the most important part as it is what people will be thinking about as they leave the room. Ideally you want to end with a clear and single call to action. Tell them exactly what they should do as a result of your presentation, then sit down and shut up.
As we say in the UK, I hope your next presentation goes with a bang!
All the Best