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Presentation skills, How to Tell A Story, What's Your Story, Pink Elephant

Involve me and I’ll understand

Tell me and I’ll forget.

Show me and I’ll remember.

Involve me and I’ll understand.

So how do I involve the 150 delegates in my audience in Liverpool this week?

Read on.

How to involve your audience

How to involve your audience, conference audience

I’m speaking at the Titanic Hotel on the Mersey.

So how do I avoid repeating history by sinking without trace?

I’ve prepared a number of devices we use on our presentation skills courses.

Whether we run them at our Glasgow studios or around the world.

Two in particular involve audience participation.

A key ingredient in knowing how to involve your audience.

The game

The game, How to Involve Your Audience, Pink Elephant communications

The first requires them to draw three things in quick succession.

In fact they have three seconds to draw each.

(And you can put this to the test right now by joining in.)

Picture one is the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Picture two is any world-famous monument.

And picture three is a term well-known to my audience.

I ask them to draw network marketing.

Most people will make a good fist of drawing the Eiffel Tower.

Its famous shape is easy to recreate.

But the reason we can draw it is that we can see it in our mind.

When we compare what people draw for a world-famous monument.

We get the Statue of Liberty, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben.

The variety is endless.

And that’s because I was vague with my instruction.

So people had to make their own choices.

And I got a variety of answers.

Now for network marketing.

I get a lot of blank spaces.

People tell me they were unable to think of an image.

That’s what you get with an abstract concept.

Some felt stupid being unable to put pen to paper.

And that makes my point about how people feel.

When they’re unable to understand the words we use.

So that exercise involves the audience.

Helping them to understand what it’s like.

When you’re unable to visualise what a speaker is saying.

The challenge

The challenge, how to involve your audience, oregon speech

But what will involve them completely is to ask them to prepare a 60-second speech.

So I make it clear early on that they should note the techniques I’m offering.

Because they’ll have to put them to work immediately.

When l choose three to present at the end of my training, that grabs everybody’s attention.

And now everybody will be involved because they have to be.

It’s the difference between being passive and active.

Anybody can sit in an audience and switch off.

But if you may be called on to speak, that suddenly makes it vital to be involved.

Time and time again on our communications skills courses, we apply the same technique.

First we share what we call our Golden Rules.

Then ask participants to put them into practice.

Because they’re involved and fully engaged.

They pay attention.

And because they pay attention, they’re able to reproduce the rules in their presentation.

The format

How to Involve Your Audience, Bill McFarlan, the format

In all, it’s a 40-minute slot I’ve been given in Liverpool.

So 30 minutes is devoted to my speech.

And 10 minutes to the exercise.

Which comes at the end.

To keep the audience involved throughout, I use striking pictures.

Funny stories.

And a 36-year-old clip of me reading the TV news.

When I was a much more nervous presenter.

I want to demonstrate that great presenters work hard to improve, rather than are than are born gifted.

The impact

Bill McFarlan, How to Involve Your Audience, The Impact

I want the experience of watching the presentation.

To hold their attention for every sentence.

So I make it:

  • Interesting
  • Fun
  • Memorable

My slides are pictures without words.

My stories paint a picture.

And at the end of 40 minutes, I know the audience has been involved throughout.

So now they understand how to make powerful presentations.

It’s easy just to tell people what you believe.

It’s sometimes easy to show them.

But if you involve them, then they’ll understand.


Bill McFarlan is co-Founder and Executive Chairman at Pink Elephant Communications in Glasgow.

You can read his full profile here.


Photos by  Kennisland / CC BY-SA / Oregon State University / CC BY-SA / on
Screenshot of Bill McFarlan courtesy of the BBC.

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