Do you want your students to care about the subject you’re teaching? Do you want the people in your staff meeting to sit captivated hanging on every word you say? Do you want the people listening to your presentation to do something other than text and check Facebook?
Unfortunately, PowerPoint is the world’s most reliable sedative, so you’ve already got one sleepy strike against you. If your teaching or presenting with no visuals at all, or just text based visuals then you might as well serve warm milk and cookies while singing rockabye baby.
All’s not lost though. There are ways to totally astound your audience and keep them completely off balance, all while laying the groundwork for future class and audience captivation.
I’m going to share with you two methods I’ve used to take my talks from near lullabies to almost cinematic experiences. Ready to find out how to become the Pied Piper of your staff meetings and the classroom?
The first aspect of creating an unforgettable moment in your lesson, meeting, or talk is something you already know but may not be using to its fullest potential. If you don’t do this, the impact of the two methods I’m going to share later won’t have the punch they could.
I’m talking about using storytelling and narratives to create the scaffolding to hang your lesson points on, or set the tone for the rest of your talk. Your students or audience will have a far easier time retaining the information you have, if you can use stories to provide a structure.
We can all think back to a teacher or mentor who told stories that moved us and changed our lives. That’s how many of us decided what we wanted to be when we grew up.
The impact of what you want to convey is in the vitality of your presentation and the essence of your stories.
Stories can be told at the beginning of the talk, or you can make the entire talk a narrative. Doing both would be ideal. The good thing about telling a story in the beginning, is that it doesn’t have to be funny. While leading with a humorous joke is nice, it’s not always easy to do successfully.
Especially if your audience is a group of teenagers who wouldn’t be caught dead laughing at an old timers humor in front of their friends.
A story in the beginning of a talk can be interesting, entertaining, cautionary, scary or all of the above. Unlike a joke, however, a story can serve its purpose even if you don’t tell it with perfect timing.
Encapsulating your talk within a narrative, even if you’re talking about the Pythagorean theorem or the latest updates on tax reform, is a great way to encourage retention and engagement.
The narrative you tell could be a journey your students imagine themselves on, or perhaps the epic quest of a character. Each part of the lesson can coincide with some part of the journey. The closer you make it to something they’re interested in the better it will go over.
Hopefully, I’ve sold you on using storytelling and narratives. There is a whole article’s worth of information on just that topic alone. Now for the first method of spellbinding your audience.
The first method is using sound effects. I don’t mean sound from a video in PowerPoint or PowToon. I’m talking about pure and sometimes cheap sound effects.
Let me give you an example of what I did for a story I told for Halloween. The first thing I did was find some scary sound effects that matched my story. In this case I was talking about ghosts and haunted houses so I looked for sounds that matched. There are places you can get free royalty free sounds so that was easy and free.
I then practiced the story a few times so I knew around where in my story I would want the sound effects. I then used a completely free Audio editing program called Audacity to place the sound effects at the time I wanted them. Even though I used Audacity you could just as easily use Garageband, I-Movie, Windows Movie maker and a host of others. The important thing is that you want your sound effects to come at the right time.
Now comes the fun part! You need to stage this so that your class doesn’t know there’s going to be sound effects. I used a bluetooth speaker hidden under a table, but you could just as easily use anything that will play the audio file you made. You could even burn the song to a CD if that’s the only way you can access speakers.
If you’re a teacher don’t forget you can use your Smart Board system for its speakers as well.
Quick Tip: It’s important that you put white space in the audio file even during the times the sound effects are not playing. The whole thing needs to be automatic so your students/audience don’t see you initiate anything.
In my example, the sound effects don’t start until the very end so there are about 6 mins of white space before they begin. This will also keep a Bluetooth speaker from turning off because it wasn’t being used, leading to you fumbling with the on and volume buttons right when you need to be focused on the story.
You could also have someone help you, and play the sound effects when you need them but then you’ll need to practice, and if you don’t practice enough or at all there is a good chance that the whole thing will fall apart.
Make sure you have a digital timer or the timer on the music player visible. If you’re using a timer separate from the music player display, be sure to start it at the same time you start your sound file. This gives you the freedom of not needing your timing to be absolutely perfect and in sync with your original plan for telling the story. Simply memorize the time of your sound effects, and adlib or speed up your story when you see those times approaching.
When I used this method there were people who literally jumped out of their seats at certain parts because they weren’t expecting the extra dimension of realism. From that point on, everyone pays more attention to my talks because they never know what’s going to happen.
I put the talk I mentioned above on YouTube. I added pictures and background music just for YouTube, but if you wait until the end you’ll hear the sound effects I used when I told this story live.
The second method is along the same lines but still very different. It’s to employ actors in your lessons or presentations. By actors, I mean involving a single person or even a group of people.
When I employed the actor strategy I paired it along with sound effects. I told the story of John Henry and when I talked about him being in the field preparing to work I had the audio speaker begin playing outdoor sounds (crickets, birds, and dogs).
I then talked about how people would have sung a song to cheer John Henry on while he worked. Little did my audience know that I had planted people in the meeting who would actually start to sing the song I was talking about.
When it was all said and done it made for a surprisingly satisfying story experience.
I chose to use my actors to add a level of sensory realism similar to the sound effects from the speakers, but you could also interweave them as characters into your lesson. Truthfully the sky is the limit, or rather what your actors are willing to do is the limit.
Now go out and make something awesome, something that your students or audience will never forget, or at least won’t fall asleep on.
If you’d like to know exactly how to go about using the sound effects method, EduCraft Ideas is going to create a free course called “Tech in your Talk: Sound Effects for a Cinematic experience”, sign up at the bottom of the page and you’ll get the invite by email.
EduCraft Ideas also offers one on one coaching for public speaking, speech writing, and storytelling. Click here if you want to go to the next level of speaking, one where people never forget what you said. Wouldn’t it be amazing if someone walked up to you and said, “I’ll never forget that lesson you gave a couple of years ago? It’s always stuck with me.”