Keep your audience listening

One task when making a presentation is to keep your audience engaged. Tell part of story or ask a question and leave the story completion until the end of your presentation to keep them interested. Our minds wants completion and will be searching for the answer, trying to figure it out.

Here are three examples that have worked for me. Of course, I embellish, to make them interesting. Let your imagination soar!

Question: Pose a question. Oprah Winfrey said in an interview that, over 25 years of interviewing the famous, villains, and the everyday heroes and heroines, there was one question all her interviewees asked after the show. The one question was asked by US Presidents, Beyonce…. What was that question?

Story one: The bus stop

Imagine, you are driving along in your two-seater car when you come towards a bus stop with three people waiting. One is an old friend, a special friend, one who had saved your life years ago and you had been like sisters since. It’s been a while since you last saw her. How great it would be to catch up with her again!

Next to your close friend is….. wow…. you just know this man is really special. Could he be the man of your dreams? Sometimes you just know instinctively when some one is special.

Next to him is an elderly woman, grasping the pole, and gasping for breathe. She needs to get to the hospital promptly.

What do you do?

Story two: The camels.

You are a wise woman, riding your camel in the desert, when you come across a group whose leader has passed away. The custom is to divide the possessions amongst the next generation. Half goes to the eldest child; a third goes to the second child; and a ninth goes to the third child. They have 17 camels – how do they divide the herd?

Think about the possible answers / outcomes before reading further for possible ones ……………………………………………………………………………..

Answer to the question. .. Oprah will explain better than I can. It’s two minutes of insight into human nature. I use the simple answer, “Was that OK?”. We are all looking for affirmation and then I blend that lesson into my speech.

Completion on story one: The Bus Stop
Towards the end of the presentation I would recap the scenario. And ask the question: What did you do? I ask for a show of hands for those who picked up their friend. Then a show of hands for those who picked up (or tried to) the man of their dreams. Lastly I ask – how many of you took the ill woman to hospital.

You have choices. The obvious one, the one the majority of people say that they would do, is to take the ill woman to hospital. That is commendable. You have a social conscience and getting the ill woman to hospital was essential.

However, there is another possibility. You can do the right thing, and have fun. Ask your friend to take the ill woman to hospital; you can be confident that she will do so. She has proved herself a life saver in the past. Let her be a life saver again. This enables you to stay at the bus stop… next to … the man of your dreams!

Answer to story two: The camels
The message is decide what can you contribute, do so, then move on. Your contribution can make a difference; it can empower others to solve a problem.
The answer is: Add your camel to the herd, making the herd 18. Divide in half = 9; divide by 3 = 6; divide by 9 = 2. Total camels needed for distribution amongst the three children = 17. The division leaves one camel remaining – Yours! It’s now time to saddle up and move on.

Do you have an sources of stories, puzzles, questions to share? Please do so in the comment box.  My audiences have  heard these – and I am looking for something new for the Soroptimist Convention in July.

Author: Yvonne Simpson

This blog shares my leadership journey and my passion for educating to lead.

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