Adults have a short attention span, just like children. They may hide their boredom better than children, but it still has to be overcome. I was recently coaching at a couple of accelerators — Startup Bootcamp, Techstars London, and topics these entrepenuers were talking about were fairly complex — Cyber Security, Blockchain, — not necessarily kid friendly products.
I bang on about the 55%, 38%, 7% stats all the time — people only get 7% of you from the words you use, the rest is body language and tonality. Stating these facts to my clients is only the beginning — we all need the tools to shake us out of the 7% problem. Here are some axioms that all relate to presenting to kids and making an impact.
Put energy and happiness behind the words to make them meaningful. See it is a brain harpoon — if you can shift your perspective you can move your audience in ways you have only dreamt of.Kids love happy, energetic words. Even if there is a serious message they love being taken on a journey. We want that as adults aswell. If kids are bored they will get up, walk out of a room, start talking about something else. Adults hide this behind emails, tweets and mental lists of things not done.
Give some energy, have some fun, tell the story the best you can. Everything is at stake when we tell children a story — will they let us get to the end of the page? Our energy levels are naturally higher. It is just the same with any presentation — we must keep the energy levels high, because everything is at stake. It is amazing how much more engaged we are as presenters and the moments of joy we find when we do this. It becomes about the audience and not about us “getting through”. It will drive us to want to tell the story well.
If you tell the story, people will jump on board. You can’t phone in a story to children, you have to actually tell it with characters, different voices, your body, your pace. That is simply how you tell a story. Take those principles into your adult audience, and find any opportunity to actually tell a story. Stand-alone facts don’t have to be that — you can wrap them into the journey of your project, whatever your project may be. There is a reason they are there — tell the story of the reason.
You don’t know your audience but you know your story. We all have our favourite kid’s stories and stories that we wish we could hide from our children — because they love them so much! Why not enjoy building up a bank of stories that you can enjoy and use again and again, bringing out different elements to different audiences? It may be the overall story of the company’s vision, it’s past, it’s present and it’s future. Also, crucially, have in your back pocket the story of why you are there. It can just be a thirty second snapshot; preparing to tell your story is always a great thing to do.
Feet- put them shoulder width apart — if they stand together you look like a school boy. A very practical one here — watch CBeebies and you will see the presenters standing tall, feet planted and anchored to the ground. Don’t underestimate the power of a very physically present speaker. It will feel weird, but will look compelling.
And finally: If you can convince your brain to do short, sharp sentences, it will do that when you are on stage. The brain is a powerful thing, it also is good at following. You have to tell it again and again to do short sharp sentences. They are very simple building blocks of your story. Nobody starts climbing a mountain at the top, they start from the bottom. See short sentences as a way of climbing the mountain. And don’t be polite, don’t waffle — just tell the story!