Part Three of this series consists of various suggestions on how you can create more appealing and engaging content.
I talk a lot. So much so that it’s become my career.
Yes, some may view me as the curiously “courageous,” sometimes misunderstood, and occasionally envied public speaker. Hoorah. My eight-year journey into speaking was more of a tumble, in all honesty. Truthfully, I fell in, ill-prepared and woefully uneducated on what to expect.
Over the years, as my career has started to grow, people commonly ask me how they can pursue sharing their personal stories or delving into the profession. This question comes up so often that I thought it was time to give some pointers to interested people. Therefore, this is a series of suggestions for those interested in pursuing this path.
Part Three: Get Creative
You may be wondering why this section is after “Getting Out There,” for many creating content would seemingly make more sense to come before putting yourself out there. Many may prefer to develop content before getting to know the community opportunities. You may find yourself in this arena, ready to get going on delivering speeches and training everyone you encounter. And to be wholly honest, I did that myself. I put my content together, then I ventured out into the big wide world, and I tortured it (and myself) with the cliche’iest of cliche’d (copyright me for the use of those excellent words) PowerPoint presentations ever. Yup, I did that thing we all complain about. I built a basic PowerPoint slide deck with all the feels of someone who was in a hurry and then threw all the statistics, charts, and graphs in that I could find. It was incredibly abysmal and utterly forgettable.
Luckily for me, my personality outshined my dull deck of slides. And people were genuinely interested in my topic and information. Had I not been gifted (through years of awkward childhood years) with sarcasm and one-liners, I don’t know that I would have survived the cutthroat world of public speaking. You see, many people speak and do so for free through an array of opportunities. Many people share information publicly, and there are a lot of events and trainings that are quickly forgotten because the content didn’t stand out. My content didn’t stand out for a while, and I knew it. Once I realized I could do it differently, I started asking myself how?
I spent the next several months solely looking at improving my presentation skills. I read, watched, and scoured for nothing but speaking and presenting skills and what I found was a plethora of what not to do’s. Many presenters fail before they begin by not viewing presentation building as an equally important component of information sharing. Professional development, conferences, and training sessions have experts to share valuable, innovative, and even life-enhancing information. Yet, sometimes the information is lost in the delivery and reception and falls flat. I can’t count the number of sessions I’ve sat in where the information was great, but no one was engaged, listening, or even mentally present. I’ve often asked myself, what good is this doing anyone?
Don’t get me wrong, we (speakers/presenters) all have our “off” days, myself included. I’ve had days where I hadn’t slept at all the night before, maybe my personal life was eating up more of my professional energy than I wanted, or I just wasn’t “on.” It happens, for a multitude of reasons, all the time. Unfortunately, these are the days we can’t always prevent. But, we can still develop content that fits our presentation style and our needs, so even if we are having a less-than-superhuman day, our information shines, and more importantly, it is received.
Whew, that was a lot of background on the why…. what’s most important? Good content makes a decent presentation better. Bad content makes it blah blah bland.
Content style, just like delivery, should be individually-based and interest-driven. So, I can offer options, ideas, insights, and techniques that I lean toward, but the best thing to do is find your own style. Then work to build it to reflect you as a speaker and presenter. This is why I suggest getting out there first. While you are out there, you should be looking at the content others are sharing. Look at what doesn’t connect you to content, and keep your eyes on the content that stands out most to you. Then, look, learn, and get a feel for what could help you develop your own unique content.
Some key lessons and concepts for above-average content seem to work across the board. Many of these tips are backed by how humans learn, engage, and retain information. There is a plethora of learning-based information, and all of it says the same thing. I’ll boil this into a few key points, so you can get a starting point on your own content.
Keep it short and simple!
I know you’ve read and researched and possibly even spent years learning everything there is to know about your subject. And now! And now you want to put all of your well-earned knowledge into a single slide so you can impart everything there is to know to your audience! How lucky for them. (Insert eye roll). Here is where we should just say NO. Do not put all of your knowledge into that slide! Just don’t, and let me tell you why. First, if your brain is easily readable for anyone who can access your content, why would they ever need you again? And what happens when they get ahold of your information and decide they can now share it without you? Create content that doesn’t give your brain away for free. Build it around you and let yourself be the narrator and instructor.
Secondly, no one can read your slide. Moreover, no one wants to read your slide. Yes, I said it. We all see the hundreds of words you’ve listed and make an internal moan of immediate boredom. HELPPPPP. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is likely to be one or two people in the room who are eager for the information and will do their best to read every word, but the majority will not. You may lose them as you speak against the slide (not in unison with the content). You may lose them to everyday distractions (a phone notification goes off). Or you may just lose them because of the quality of the content in front of them. So keep it short and simple.
Make it purty.
I know those stock PowerPoint templates are ready and ripe for the taking, but do us all a favor and boldly go where most presenters have not gone before. Create your own slide styles or download more current and engaging slides. Or better yet, go off course and be willing to do something even more innovative and unique. You can use various software or technologies to create interactive, engaging, and aesthetic content that shifts away from the dull and dry standards so many are sticking to.
Don’t contradict yourself.
Put your personality in your presentation. I know this may sound difficult. We should be viewing our content style as an extension of our own presentation style. What are the things you are drawn to? What information are you most excited by? What colors and themes catch your eye? Do you prefer a more refined or retro style? Think of how best you could represent yourself through developing your content. My preference is high-resolution visual images in place of language whenever possible. I view my content as imagery which I narrate my ideas over. This works best because it allows the image to convey meaning and be open to interpretation by the viewers.
Help them care.
The content is a tool for knowledge sharing to offer information you hold to those who may not know it. While the goal should be education, learning is best done when invested and care about the issue. This means we need to have some form of emotional connection to the content, the speaker, and the issue. Remember, the speech or training isn’t about you, but it should represent you, especially what makes you passionate about the cause. Be intentional with your content development and use it to emote why your audience should be invested. But don’t assume you know the reasons, especially if you don’t. Pull from experience, whether yours or theirs and allow that to drive your development.
Hopefully, these tips can get you going in the right development direction. The main thing is to remember that it should reflect what you are trying to convey and should not take away from the message and meaning you want your audience to leave with.
Keep it short and simple.
Capture their eyes if you want to hold their interest.
Don’t contradict yourself, even in your content.
Help your audience connect and care about your issue.
Leave me a comment and let me know what type of content you would like to learn more about!
Stay Tuned for Part 4 Speaking of Professional
You can learn more about safely crafting and sharing your story in my book: The Art of Safe Storytelling