Make Your Audience Feel Something

We like movies, TV shows, concerts, and good meals because they make us feel something.

When we feel something, we remember it.

Think about the last movie you went to that you couldn’t stop talking about after leaving the theater. Or the concert that had you put an album on repeat for a full month afterward.

I’ll never forget when I saw The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan is the GOAT). People were literally dressed up as the Joker and Batman and absolutely buzzing before, during, and after the movie. It was memorable because it was an event that we weren’t just watching alone but experiencing together.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that creating a feeling makes something memorable, we almost never put this knowledge into practice in the workplace. When we create presentations at work, we focus too much on the data and forget the power of connecting with people.

The next time you sit down to create a PowerPoint presentation, keep these tips in mind to take a meeting from boring to memorable.

Tell a story

Every good movie or show has a beginning, middle, and end. A climax. A protagonist. Conflict. Resolution. Cue the DRAMA!

Give your work presentations some of the same thematic elements to keep us engaged. Are you proposing a new way of doing things? Show your colleagues why the old way must be updated. Convince them that change is needed. Illustrate what their future could look like if they take your advice.

If you fail to engage your audience in your presentation, they won’t connect with you. They will be forced to doom-scroll Instagram during your entire presentation. Instead of being engaged and sharing their ideas, your audience will be slumped in their seats until you cry out, “Any questions?” and they immediately start packing their things.

Tell that story with visuals — not a wall of text.

Don’t cram too much onto the plate at once. Yes, I know you have important points to share. But wall-to-wall text on slides will not convey that information. It will make eyes glaze over and minds wander.

And no, reading that text word. for. word. in. a. monotone. and. soul. sucking. voice. does not help ☠️.

There’s a reason some people refuse to watch movies with subtitles.

Instead, use clear headlines for the most important parts of your presentation. And mix in images and data to hash out a slide instead of overusing bulleted lists.

Mixing in a Dwight Schrute GIF on slide 29 is mildly amusing, but if it’s buffered on either end by endless text, it won’t save anyone from 45 minutes of misery.

Let your words do the convincing. Use your slides as supporting material to drive interest.

Dwight Schrute gif

Don’t forget that delivering a presentation is like being on stage.

The stage is typically your bedroom, home office, or local Starbucks. Sure, you might have on only underwear below your visible Zoom view (be careful about this at Starbucks). But regardless, show us you give a damn.

  • What does your lighting look like?
  • Can we hear you?
  • Do you know the material well enough?
  • Is your presentation long enough to make your point but short enough to hold our attention?

The details matter on stage, but most of you fail to consider anything past your slides. The slides are important. But there’s so much more to keeping us engaged than what we see.

So the next time you flip on Netflix, pay attention to what keeps you focused on the screen. Some of those same principles apply to keeping your audience engaged at work.

No matter what underwear or pajamas you have on just out of our view.