Producing Blockbuster Presentations

Cinema screenLast weekend I sat in a cinema enjoying the latest summer blockbuster action movie.

These movies attract millions of people during the warmest months of the year to sit silently in a darkened room watching what is basically just a series of flashing lights on a screen.

And we pay good money for it too! Madness isn’t it?!

This got me thinking. If a blockbuster movie can attract us all and keep us on the edge of our seats for so long, then surely there must be some lessons that we as speakers can learn from this to make our own presentations just as compelling for our audience?

Here are my thoughts on lessons you can incorporate into your next blockbuster presentation, taken straight from the cinema industry:

Anticipation is everything

It’s the build up to a summer blockbuster that helps to get bums on seats in the cinema. That intriguing trailer, the advert on TV and the online articles all help to build audience anticipation for the big event. The anticipation of the film is as enjoyable for some viewers as the film itself (even more so if the blockbuster turns out to be a big flop!).

Presentation lesson: Your pre-presentation actions should all help to build anticipation in your audience and get them excited about what you have to say. Choose an exciting (and relevant) title for your presentation, personally invite each member of your audience to attend, even give away sneak previews of the content that you will be sharing to really excite your audience!

 

We remember and enjoy believable characters

The very best films feature characters that we can believe in and relate to. Films with deep and involving characters are often much more enduring than those that feature one dimensional potatoes in the lead role. We can all remember that the lead character in the Shawshank Redemption is called Andy, but can you recall much about the lead characters in High School Musical 3?

Presentation lesson: If we want our audience to believe in us, then we need to show the depth of our character when presenting. We need to display to our audience how we are just like them, how we are human too. If we want to be remembered by our audience, then we need to show some emotion, and tell them a story that they won’t forget.

 

Plot holes ruin movies (and presentations too)

I’m pretty sure that I can name at least ten movies that looked amazing in the trailers, but were completely let down by MASSIVE plot holes (Source Code anyone?). A massive plot hole can leave audiences feeling angry and disappointed when the credits start rolling.

Presentation lesson: Your Q&A session is the chance for your audience to close any plot holes that they may have found in your presentation. If you deny your audience the chance to ask questions (either because you’re too scared or there isn’t time) then they may leave the room with unanswered queries, annoyed that they wasted their time listening to you only to be more confused than before you started speaking!

 

Going to the cinema is like a dream

I don’t remember much from my university media studies module (six weeks of 9am Friday morning lectures), but I do remember this: “cinema is a massively immersive experience because of the way in which it replicates a dream like state”. With its darkened rooms, soft chairs and fantasy projections on the screen in front of us, the cinema is a lot like being in a dream of our choosing. Awesome.

Presentation lesson: You should always do your best to make your presentation a fully immersive experience for your audience. In an ideal world you want your audience focus on and think about nothing else but your presentation from the moment that they enter the room.

If your audience are rearranging chairs when they arrive or distracted by a fluttering blind whilst you speak, you don’t have their full engagement. Do your best to make your presentation room like a 5 star hotel, in which your audience have to worry about nothing except what matters – your presentation!

 

Concentrating in the cinema can be hard

A slight contradiction here, but one I’m sure you can relate to. Remember how we just said that going to the cinema is like being in a dream like state? That’s not always the case is it? Especially when you’re lucky enough to sit next to the person that is clinically unable to eat popcorn quietly. The cinema often contains noisy distractions. From phones to not-so-quiet whispering, blockbuster films need to be able to hold our attention against these noisy foes.

Presentation lesson: Your presentation needs to accommodate an audience that might at times be distracted. Even the best presenters in the world cannot control the minds of their audience and make them concentrate 100%. As a result, your presentation should contain clear headings, points and summaries to ensure that even if your audience do tune out occasionally, they can quickly catch back up.

The big finale

As humans, we crave order and logic, and so a big conclusion that ties up all the loose ends and results in a ‘happily ever after’ moment, really pleases us. It’s for this reason that most action movies end with a titanic battle between good and evil, with the goodies prevailing in the end.

Presentation lesson: Our presentations should never have a damp squib of an ending. Imagine the atmosphere in a cinema if the latest blockbuster ended in a sad way. The audience would leave silently, with no energy and probably without a smile too. We don’t want that to happen after your presentation so be sure to finish clearly, logically and with lots of energy, letting your audience know exactly what it is that you want them to go and do next.

Success is all about the takings at the Box Office

Ultimately, the success or failure of a blockbuster is measured on its Box Office takings.

Presentation lesson: What is the goal of your blockbuster presentation? When the credits roll, what will ultimately decide whether your presentation has been a success or a failure? Before you even begin writing, make sure you know exactly what it is you want to achieve so that you can script a presentation that will be this year’s blockbuster smash hit!

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Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

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