Surprising to most public speakers is the fact that few people will remember a word they said.
Your delivery can be scintillating. Your thoughts can be brilliant. But don’t expect anyone to chat about your talk the day after. Or even an hour after.
The simple truth is, humans aren’t wired to remember things that don’t immediately impact their lives. Their craniums aren’t built for it.
When it comes to remembering some of your great points, or remembering what to pick up for dinner, dinner will win.
While you can’t change this reality, you can work with it. Here’s how.
Your audience is there to see you. Don’t disappoint them.
Before any message can reach the average person’s rational-thinking neocortex, it has to pass through the reptilian brain and the limbic mid-brain. And neither the limbic nor reptilian are built to process brilliant ideas.
Instead, they’re there to see if your message (and you) are attractive and trustworthy.
That means you need to understand your audience’s psychographic leanings as thoroughly as you do your content.
If, for example, you’re speaking to SaaS founders about marketing, you need to get that they’re entrepreneurs, and bootstrappers by nature. If you go onstage looking like an IBM consultant, they’ll immediately shut down. Your message, no matter how good, won’t reach them.
If, on the other hand, you come across as someone like them, their limbic and reptilian brains will welcome you in. Your message may not be remembered either (hey, they have their dinner shopping to think of) but chances are far greater they’ll remember you. Which means, the day after the conference, they may actually sign up for your newsletter, and perhaps even recall your name if they need marketing work done in the future.
What’s the one thing they’ll think of, when they think of you?
I recall a pitch I helped win during my career as an advertising creative director.
We had put together a brilliant presentation. We covered all the points. We had ideas that would impress, fireworks that would dazzle, and darn it, we were even funny.
But somewhere around rehearsal 27, my CEO pulled back and said “We need one thing for them to remember us by.”
He didn’t mean one uber point. The star on the Christmas tree. What he meant leaving them with one simple thing – any thing – that they’d be able to recall when they finished hearing all ten agencies pitch.
Think about it: after three days of pitches, these hapless clients wouldn’t be able to tell one agency from another, let alone recall who said what. At that point, they’d be reaching for any identifier that would help them distinguish one group from another. A funny haircut. Quirky mannerisms. Anything.
We picked money bags. Seriously. Big bags with $ signs on them that jangled like they were full of loot. We put these money bags on fulcrums to demonstrate leverage, we used them to hold down pages after we tore them from the easel, we even used them to prop up ads we’d done for other clients.
Sure, there was a tenuous connection to our pitch – we could do more with less money – but that wasn’t the important part. We were the moneybags guys.
And we won.
So what does this mean in the context of a speech?
Look at Antarctic Mike. He’s a great public speaker, to be sure. But his hook is, he speaks from his experience as an extreme weather athlete. And when he gets on stage, it’s in full antarctic gear – parka, goggles, kodiak boots, snow pants. The first time I saw him, I couldn’t believe how corny it looked. But the man is brilliant, and his hook is absolutely memorable. I challenge you to try to forget the image of a guy getting up on stage in a full parka and ski goggles.
Can the one thing tie into everything in your speech?
Kevin Carroll is the man behind the red rubber ball. His entire philosophy is tied up with finding your maximum potential through passion and creativity. The metaphor for it all is – you guessed it – playing with the red rubber ball.
It’s wonderful to see how everything Carroll speaks about comes back to that one simple red rubber ball. And how we, as the audience, can use the red rubber ball as a starting point to extrapolate all the other points Carroll makes.
How can you distill down the one thing that ties into everything? For a start, it may not come right away, so don’t beat yourself up.
But I teach one technique in my speechwriting workshops that may help.
I have workshoppers ‘peer review’ their speech with other workshoppers. After one person gives their speech, I immediately ask their partner what’s the one thing they remember. Often, they draw a complete blank. But sometimes, they smile and mention that one little picture the speaker conjured, or that little turn of a phrase they threw in. If it makes sense to do so, we then ask the speaker to bring everything back to that key moment, again and again. To give their audience one salient memory that will forever be linked to that speaker.
Try it. It may just help you craft an unforgettable presentation.
As a brand strategy expert, successful entrepreneur, founder of Your Ultimate Speech, and award-winning author, Marc Stoiber uses simplicity and creativity to help people discover what’s awesome about their business… then helps them tell the world. For more on creating an effective speech for your company, connect with Marc and Your Ultimate Speech on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and sign up to his monthly newsletter.