Tag Archives: audience

What happens when people hear a story?

Category:Storytelling Tags : 

Why do we do storytelling? Because we heard we should? Or because it’s fun? Or because the audience wants it?

Yes, it is about the audience. But not because they want it, but because it changes the way they feel. If you tell a story on stage, something happens with people.

What happens? For example these things…

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How to keep your audience attention

Category:Audience,Preparation,Storytelling Tags : 

I recently sat in a presentation with a friend of mine next to me. After the talk, I asked my friend what he thought of the presentation.

“To be honest,” he said, “I got distracted halfway through and couldn’t get back on track after. So I missed most.”

It happens to all of us. We get distracted easy. For a speaker, that means it is crucial to put elements into their presentations that will prevent that from happening.

How do you make your speech unpredictable and your audience engaged?

You want to keep your audience attention. But how? By adding in unpredictable elements to your speech. Elements that will keep your audience on their toes.

Which elements are that? Here are five.

(Bold) Statements

“You all think smoking kills? Let me tell you something. Do you know that the amount of people dying from diabetes are three times as many people as dying from smoking?”

It’s how Mohammed Qahtani, 2015 World Champion Public Speaking, starts his talk ‘The Power of Words’. The statement wasn’t correct, but that wasn’t what mattered. He got what he wanted: the attention of the audience. And a chance to explain his point.

Statements and especially bold statements are a great attention grabber. You trigger people to listen to you. They want to hear how you are going to prove your statement.

Qahtani was quite extreme in his statement. You don’t have to go that far. But you can still trigger. When pitching you could, for example, say something like “We are better than Apple”.

The important part: you’ll have to prove your statement after!

Being funny

A second way to get and keep the attention of your audience is to be funny. Make your audience smile and they will love you for it. Being funny is a great way to do that.

At the same time, being funny is tricky. Be careful here. Not everybody has the same humour. And you have to know the difference between being funny and telling a joke.

When it comes to being funny, timing is everything. And not too much. A funny story can help, but it has to be relatable to the topic of your talk! A good idea is to keep it personal and not insult your audience.

It is a great way to keep the attention. But as said, be careful, not everything is considered funny.

Tell a great story

We know that people are hardwired to listen to stories. When done well, telling stories is one of the most powerful tools in a presentation. A story keeps attention because people want to hear what comes next.

Telling a short story in your presentation can do wonders for the attention. What you want to do is connect the stories to the content of your talk. In other words: make it relevant.

I often use stories in my presentations. The stories can be about my kids, about anything. But I always make sure they connect to the topic of the talk.

Give them bold or surprising statistics

“According to Comscore, 25% of internet users have an ad blocker installed.”

It’s a sentence from one of my presentations. These statistics are staggering. It will make people think. “That’s a lot!” (or in some cases “that’s not much!”. Whenever I use statistics like these, I can see people look up, take pictures or write them down.

I have their attention at that point. Statistics do that. But like with the stories and fun stuff, it has to be relevant and at least a little bit bold. Telling your audience 100% of people drink water won’t help much.

Your slide design

The last way to get and keep attention is your slide design. We all know ‘death by PowerPoint’. Too many bullets will kill your presentation.

A great design will keep people focused. This can be the use of the right colours, but also usage of the right images.

Personally, I use a lot of animated gifs. These to me are like the pictures used in Harry Potter movies. They come to life.

It’s all about relevance

With all the things you can do to keep the attention, one thing is important: it has to be relevant. It has to make sense.

To conclude, I’d like to share my favourite gif to use in presentations. Here’s why I use this gif: it’s funny, it’s relevant and it tells a story. I use it to explain how we should always be looking beyond the obvious because that’s where the real gold lies.


Misconceptions about Storytelling debated

Category:Storytelling Tags : 

I attended an office party the other day at which a few people started debating storytelling. There were a few who didn’t believe in the concept of storytelling at all. Others did believe in it, but didn’t think it was ‘for them’. It struck me how little informed some people seemed to be. Or better said: how presumptuous.

Some people believed storytelling is not important. Which is ok to think, but they thought so for the wrong reasons.

It’s a hype!

“Let me tell you a story”, that’s how the conversation started. “Hah, a story, are you doing ‘storytelling’?”, said the second person. “Storytelling is a hype!” was the third response. That’s how the conversation started.

Some of the people at the party thought Storytelling was a hype. They thought so because they had heard the term so often.

In a way, they were right. When you hear a term often, it feels like the start of a hype. And when agencies start offering a service related to that ‘buzzword’ as a service, all alarm bells go off. At that point, it has all the signs of becoming a hype.

But is Storytelling a hype? When something is a hype, it will also go away again. It temporarily has the attention.

But ‘storytelling’ isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it will be around longer than many other ‘buzzwords’. Storytelling is part of human DNA. It has always been around. From the stone ages until now. And it will remain part of our lives in the far future.

We’ve been telling stories forever. And we’ve been selling by stories forever. So is it a hype? It probably is. But one that actually makes sense. One that

This argument made one of the people in the conversation, let’s call him Mark, think. He tended to agree but didn’t give in yet.

It doesn’t work!

“Whatever, it might not be a hype, it sure doesn’t work! People want to know what they are buying, they don’t want to hear stories!”

This is an argument that you hear often within businesses. Many businesses aren’t using storytelling yet because they think it doesn’t work. These businesses haven’t looked well enough at how and why people buy.

People don’t buy because a product has the most features, they buy because they feel it fits their needs. And that goes beyond the features. When buying, people listen to friends and families. They read reviews, and they listen to the stories of the salesmen.

Did you ever think about why a salesperson always has a personal experience that happens to feel like yours? Yep, that’s because the story works. You start feeling a connection with the salesperson.

Stories also work because when buying, people want to learn. They want to know everything about the product, the service or anything connected. People’s brains need to learn. And the best way of learning is through stories. Because stories stick.

But that doesn’t work for B2B!?

Mark wasn’t convinced yet.

“Ok, it might work for consumers, but we are a B2B business. B2B is different. Here people want to know about facts!”

Again, this was an argument I had heard before. B2B and B2C seem to be very different, when in fact they aren’t. Like B2C, B2B is also all about people, about emotions. And that is not a made up argument. A Google Research showed that half of the B2B buyers are more likely to buy if they can connect emotionally with a brand. And the best way of getting that connection is by telling stories that show a connection.

The same study also shows that 71% buys because they see a personal value. 68.8% even wants to pay more if they believe in a business.

That is all emotion. That is all personal. And guess how to best get the message of connection across…

Not in my niche!

Mark started to see he was running out of arguments. But he kept trying.

“Yeah ok, maybe it works somewhere, but not with us! We are in a very specific niche. People don’t listen to stories in our niche. And even if they would, we wouldn’t be able to find or create stories anyway. There are no stories in our niche!”

To be honest, I always get a little bit annoyed when people say this. There is no niche in the world where you cannot find a story. There is no niche in the world where you can’t find a connection with your audience. If that would be so, the niche would not even exist.

When there is a niche, there is a demand. Someone wants that product or service. And if there is a demand, it means the product or service is solving some sort of problem, even if it’s very small. That’s where you can find the stories.

You could see that some people started to think storytelling wasn’t so bad after all. Even Mark. But if you know anything about the human mind, you know that giving in, is the hardest thing to do. Instead, ‘we’ try and change the subject, or at least find a way to make us look good. That’s what happened at the party as well. Mark shifted the topic.

Storytelling is difficult?

“Well, we don’t do storytelling because it takes too much of our time. We are in the selling business, not the telling business. When you do storytelling you need to find the stories or create them. You need to actually be able to think of stories! Our people can’t do that.”

Granted, good storytelling does take some time. But it doesn’t take that much more time than a regular marketing campaign will take you. Any work takes time. But it’s about choices. And knowing that storytelling is so much more powerful, the choice should be easy.

The good thing about storytelling is also that if you know how it is not so difficult to do. If you analyse stories, you can see that most stories have a similar structure. You need an obstacle, a hero, a beginning, middle and an end.

“Oh, so Storytelling is easy? Anyone can do it?”

Well, yes, anyone can do it. Anyone can create a story. But you want the story to be good. You want the story to have an impact. And for that, you need to know how to fill in the details that create a persuasive story. And no, not anyone can ‘just do that’. If so, anyone would write novels.

Everybody can learn how to create a story!

If you want to learn how, join our FREE webinar on the secrets of Storytelling! It has some of the best tips from our Storytelling Class in it.

Finally, Mark was convinced. He realised Storytelling was a useful way of getting a connection with his audience. He realised his business needed to “get” storytelling. And see it as more than a hype.

“Ok, now I get it. Storytelling is about reaching the human brain. It’s actually a very natural way of connecting with your audience! We should do this. We’re going to allocate time and resources to this. First, our staff will take the class and then we’ll tell stories! We’re in!”

Are you in?


6 different Types of Presentation Goals

Category:Structuring Tags : 

When you are doing a presentation you always have a goal. You are trying to get a message across. You are trying to teach your audience. Or you are trying to sell something. There is always a presentation goal.

There are different goals for a presentation. Here are six types of goals. Each of them has their own purpose. And each of them should be handled in a different way. In this article, I will explain how they work and how you as a speaker can benefit best.

The six presentation goals are:

To inform

Most of the presentations in business are about informing the people in the room. A client or your manager asks you to come and present on the progress of the project. What they expect is to get informed. They aren’t looking for inspiration or funny videos. What they want is a clear explanation of what the status of the project is.

There are more examples of presentations that are about informing the audience. Like presenting financial results or presenting the findings of a research. Or when you are a teacher and informing the parents of all the things that are going on in your school.

These talks are often short and to the point. If there is too much information, people won’t remember much. They should be easy to understand for those in the room.

The talks focus on the facts. The goal is to give the audience these facts.

To educate

When the talks become a bit more complicated, that is usually because they aren’t only to inform. They are to educate. The goal is to have the audience go home understanding more about what they heard. They need to leave knowing a lot more.

This goes beyond stating facts. You want the audience to learn, so you have to pay attention to this. You need to teach or instruct the group of people in front of you. That means you need to know a lot about your topic.

There are many different examples of this talk. A workshop or training session is the most logical one of course. But also instructing your staff on new policies is an example.

Presentations to educate are often longer. Because you want the audience to remember what you teach them, you will use more examples and go more in depth. Often they are also more interactive since interaction helps the understanding. What is more important than the length, is how thorough you are on the topic.

To persuade or convince

There are a lot of presentations that have the goal of persuasion. Speakers want to convince the audience to understand or believe their stand on a topic. Or simpler: to buy a product or service.

These types of presentations you can often see in politics. The politician wants to convince the listener to vote for them. But you can see it as often in business. Each sales presentation is about persuading the potential client. You want them to choose your product or service.

A persuasive speech is working towards a solution. You show the problem. Then offer the audience the solution by presenting your views and methods. A persuasive speech offers evidence, logic and has emotion in it.

To activate

Close to persuasion is activation. These speeches present the audience with information that makes them want to take action. Fundraising presentations are good examples, but you can see them in politics a lot as well. Politicians want people to take action. Or vice versa, people want politicians to take action.

To make this type of presentation work, one of the most important ingredients is to tell them what to do. If the audience doesn’t know what to do, why would they act? Another important ingredient is passion. You are trying to make people move. They will only do that if they feel you believe.

To inspire or motivate

In essence, every speaker wants to inspire. Inspiration, after all, is one of the most powerful emotions. It is great if you are able to inspire people to think, move or change their behavior.

These types of speeches are often seen at TED Conferences. More often you see them at events aimed at personal improvement. There are many motivational speakers there. You can also see motivational speeches within businesses. When management is trying to inspire the staff to work harder or better. The best examples of motivational speeches you find in locker rooms. When coaches are trying to get their teams out on the field full of positive adrenaline.

Talks that are inspiring are often very personal. Overcoming hardship usually does very well. But it doesn’t have to be about something bad that has happened. It can be about the future. The speech Martin Luther King gave was about a dream. In the future. That can be just as inspiring!

To entertain

The last type of presentation is to entertain. Everybody likes to be entertained. And one way of entertaining is to have a great speech.

Many of these types of presentations are done in personal settings. When you are entertaining guests for example. Or when you are doing a speech at someone’s (or your own) wedding. But you can see the entertaining speeches in many places. Stand up comedy, theatre, but also presentations at an opening of an event. They are meant to entertain. To make the audience laugh and feel happy.

To make this presentation work, you have to give the audience what they are looking for: a good feeling. Sometimes you can accomplish this by telling jokes. But be careful, not everyone has the same humor. And especially these days, people are hurt easy.

To be able to make people feel good, you need to understand who is in the room and what makes them tick. You need to do your research here!

To conclude: your goals

Now that we’ve looked at the different types of goals, it’s time for you to determine your presentation goals. Have you figured them out yet? Make sure you do before you create the presentation! That way, you can work towards the goal.

And remember, when you are thinking about your presentation goals, think first about your audience. What should they get out of it? Because for all the different types of talks, the secret to all success is to understand your audience!

Now what?

You need to define your goals. That means you need to take a few steps.

First, you need to get more understanding of your audience. Do your research. Find out what their wants and needs are.

Second, write down your own goals. What do you want to accomplish?

Third, find the overlap between you and your audience. And focus your presentation on that.


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Want to make a point? Ask your audience these 3 questions

Category:Persuasion Tags : 

I wrote about ways to connect with your audience before. One topic I didn’t address then was asking the audience questions. Sometimes speakers want to engage with the audience by asking them a question. Often, these are simple questions (“who in the room works for an agency?”).

Sometimes the questions are more complicated. These have a high-risk factor in them. The audience might not respond. And if they don’t, it leaves you with an awkward ‘silence’. Unfortunately, you can see this happen quite often.

To avoid this from happening, there is a different way to get the engagement of the audience, using questions.

What not to ask

Let me start by saying what you shouldn’t do when asking a question. The first thing is simple: don’t ask a rhetorical or vague question. Asking ‘Don’t you feel this is a bad idea?’ will only make your audience gaze at you. You’re more or less saying you don’t want an answer.

If you don’t want an answer, don’t ask a question!

Second, if you are not specific enough, the audience will not know what you want from them. Asking ‘what do you know about X, Y or Z’ will not get you many answers. A question like “what are common believes you’ve heard about topic X, Y or Z’, will get you more answers. Why? Because it’s more specific and less ‘personal’. People are not afraid to answer that one.

The answer: Ask a series of questions

Before asking any question, you need to realise why you are asking a question. Is it ‘only’ to connect? Or are you trying to make a point? Chances are, you want to make a point. That means you want people to interact with you on a specific question.

You can ask a series of questions, building up to the ‘big one’. Build towards the answer to the ‘big question’ by asking several smaller ones.

Let’s say you want to emphasize the importance of using the right icons on an app to an audience of marketers. The point you want to make is that if you build an app, you want to use icons that people recognise.

To get them involved, you want to draw upon common concepts that are familiar to the audience. This will help lead them to the answer you want. In this case, you want to make clear that when building an app, use icons that people will understand.

You can then show a group of icons on the screen and ask “which icon represents the call button?”

Most likely, the audience will be able to point that out, since they’ve all seen these icons before. The follow-up question would then be “how do you know that icon represents the call button?” Again the audience will know the answer. Chances are they will say “because it has a phone on it”. The third question then is the key question. “Why do you think they use a picture of a phone for this function?” The audience will answer “because people recognise it.”

You’ve now made your point. If you build an app, you want to use icons that people recognise.

Of course, this is a very simple example of a relatively easy concept (we all know this, right?). The concept stays the same on different topics. Draw upon what people know and build towards the desired response.


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Know the audience that is in the room

Category:Structuring Tags : 

I’d like to talk to you about your audience. Many speakers don’t know much about who they have in the room.

I believe you should know a lot about them. Here’s why!


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Surprising mistakes most speakers don’t know they make

Category:Starting-out Tags : 

Many speakers have some ‘tricks up their sleeve’. Things that will help them be more memorable, or look more professional. Some of these tactics (because that is what they are) are well known. Taking the selfie with the audience. Getting interaction by asking questions, you name it. Yet some tactics might actually backfire.

Without the speaker realising what went wrong.

Sometimes in the effort of being memorable, entertaining or helpful, speakers make mistakes. Mistakes that they aren’t aware off. But mistakes that can have a devastating effect.

If you are a speaker, be aware of the following tactics and how they could backfire.

“Engaging” the audience, or are you scaring them?

It’s what every speaker wants: an engaged audience. They are focusing and connecting with you. Some speakers will go ‘all out’ trying to engage the audience. “Get them involved”.

A popular thing to do amongst speakers is letting the audience ‘take part’. This can vary. From asking people to physically take part to asking the audience questions. Even getting them on stage sometimes.

Just look at how this sales speaker gets the audience to sing a song:

Now, this looks like fun (for some). But there is something speakers often don’t realise. ‘Engagement’ doesn’t always mean it’s the audience, that has to do something.

Sometimes it’s the speaker who gets close to the audience. I saw Avinash Kaushik do a great job with this at SMXL Milan.

There is a big danger, though. For many people in the audience, it can be frighting when this happens. They might freeze. With as a result that in some cases, it stays awkwardly quiet when the audience is asked to join in…

One thing you have to know about people: most of us don’t like to stand out. With the known exceptions, people in a group tend to respond as the group does. We follow the group. If the group stays quiet, so do we.

This means that getting the audience involved might sometimes not be such a good idea. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. It does mean that you have to think about what it is that you are doing. “Read” the audience.

Know your audience before you speak. And when you do decide to get them involved: make it easy for them. Don’t ask open questions, asked closed ones. So they don’t have to step outside of their comfort zone.

[Tweet “Know your audience when you speak, and make it easy for them to participate, not difficult – @basvandenbeld”]

Giving away your slides before you start

Most of the speakers in the Digital industry love SlideShare. I love it as well. It’s a great resource to have. And at the same time, it’s a great content marketing tool. Putting your slides on SlideShare will help you spread your message. It is also great for your branding. Plus, it helps your audience remember you.

So yes, do put your slides on SlideShare. Just don’t make the mistake of sharing it too soon.

Many speakers upload their presentations to SlideShare before they actually start talking. At the start of their talk, they then tell this to the audience. They also tell them not to bother taking notes or pictures. Because after all, the slides will be available afterward anyway.

If you do this, you are doing something wrong you might not realise. And it has nothing to do with you, but all with your audience.

Everyone is the same when it comes to remembering things. We all need concentration or focus: we need to pay attention to remember things. It’s how our minds work. If we don’t pay attention, we won’t remember.

So what does this have to do with putting things on SlideShare you might ask? Let me explain this a bit more.

As soon as you are telling your audience they will get the slides, you give their brain the signal to relax. And to stop focusing on what you have to say.

They don’t have to take notes or pictures, so they sit back and relax and listen to your presentation. That sounds great but isn’t. Because when they do, they won’t remember as much from your presentation as you might hope they would. They can’t help that, it’s how the brain works. And you just told their brains it’s ok, not to remember your words.

[Tweet “As soon as you are telling your audience they will get the slides, you give their brain the signal to stop focusing – @basvandenbeld”]

And what happens when people remember less of your talk? They will be less inclined to follow up. They are less likely to remember you when the topic comes up. And they will share less to their peers about your presentation.

Don’t fall into this trap. Tell them about SlideShare after your talk, but not before. Keep the focus and attention on you. And share at the end of your talk.

“If we don’t pay attention, we won’t remember. Don’t give away the attention with giving away slides too soon” – @basvandenbeld

A ‘bit’ of bragging

It’s human nature to want to show those you are going to talk to you exist. Proof that you are the ‘cool one’. So what do many speakers do? They turn to bragging. Showing off a little to gain some authority never killed anyone right?

Wrong…

Well, it’s wrong when you turn to the type of bragging I’ve seen many speakers do in the past few years. They brag about going out the night before with the other speakers. About drinking a lot and having a hangover. Or they brag about just finishing the slide deck last minute.

Somehow some speakers think it’s cool to act like you don’t care.

But what you are saying is you don’t care about your audience. You don’t care about them traveling to a city, sometimes 1,000s of miles away from home. You don’t care about them spending hundreds of dollars or pounds on the ticket for the conference. You are saying you don’t care about the conference. You only show you care about getting pissed with speaker friends. And hey, since you are there, why not do a speech.

Is that the message you want to send out? I don’t think it is. But when you are talking about these things, that’s exactly what you are doing.

Stop pretending like the audience and the conference doesn’t matter. It’s them you are there for in the first place. It’s great to hang out with friends, but that is the bonus. Not the talk you


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Asking my audience to help me understand them better

Category:Audience,Structuring Tags : 

“You have to connect with your audience”. It’s a sentence you can read in almost any book about public speaking or hear at any training session. You want the audience to get involved.

Why do you want the audience connection?

The books and the trainers are right. It’s good to get a connection with the audience. Once you have the connection, the audience is much more inclined to believe what you are saying. They trust you, so they will be more open to you. If they don’t trust you, your story, no matter how good, will not “do” anything. It won’t “live” and the audience won’t remember your important messages.

I always try to find the connection with the audience. Sometimes that is easier said than done. But I try.

At a conference a few years ago, I tried out something new. I asked my audience for help. Let me explain.

My talk

My talk was about Understanding your audience using data-driven marketing. It’s a topic I speak about more often and help businesses with.

As a speaker, it sometimes can be difficult to get a grip on your audience. They always come from different backgrounds. So they will perceive your talk in different ways.

In this case, I wanted to make an effort to understand my audience. That’s why I asked my audience for feedback. Right there and then. Asking for feedback is difficult. When asked, most people won’t tell you the truth. Or they keep it too simple: good, medium or bad. This doesn’t help me much to understand what they are taking away from my talk.

So I asked the audience for their notes.

Every audience is always making notes. On their computer, tablet or on paper. I decided I wanted to see these notes. So I asked the audience to tweet out a picture of their notes after my session.

I knew that this was tricky to do in Sweden. The audience in the Nordics is often a bit more reserved than somewhere else. They are knowledgeable but less interactive.

In this case, the result was great.

I got regular tweets with feedback and feedback in person afterward. And even better: I got pictures of the notes from some nice and helpful people in the audience.

What I learned

Looking at the notes helped me figure out a few things about my speech. Things that can help me improve my talks for next times. Here are a few learnings from the notes:

  • The audience understood my message. The message was that we need to make a bigger effort to try and understand our audiences.
  • People understood the different groups you need to split up your audiences in.
  • People like tricks.
  • Stories ‘stick’, I have to make sure the message is clear;
  • The quotes I put on the screen come back in the notes;
  • People on average will take away 3-5 things. Don’t put more in;
  • The competitor’s data part in the presentation didn’t show up in the notes;
  • The audience ignored Social Media platforms like FB-groups, G+ and Linkedin in the notes.

Some nice learnings there for me. I already knew about some of them. But there was some refreshing new information. For me, it was a success.

And somehow (but I haven’t checked that) I think this helped the audience as well. They will hopefully look at their notes in a different way.


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