We’ve all been there. We’ve sat in the two-hour seminar, dozed off during a class lecture, and daydreamed through a sermon or two. In today’s case, I’ve been sitting in a meeting of about 350 people, and it started 90 minutes ago. So far, 20 minutes of the speech have been quite interesting, while 70 minutes have been incredibly boring.
Fact: Nobody enjoys boring people or boring meetings.
Fact: “Boring” guarantees that few people get anything out of your content and demonstrates that you may not value their time.
An effective communication process requires these three things, in this order:
- Get them to listen.
- Get them to think differently.
- Get them to act.
Gaining Mental Access
If we can’t get people to listen, nothing else matters because nothing else will likely happen. In any communication attempt of any kind, without real mental access, no effective communication will transpire. Generally, a person is boring only because they didn’t care enough to make a plan how to be interesting.
Plan To Be Interesting
In their book, Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath make the case that when we use mystery, surprise, and curiosity properly to begin a conversation or a presentation, we have a much better chance of gaining mental access. Think like the audience you are addressing or the person you are communicating with, and decide what might surprise them, fascinate them, or make them curious. Then create an opening that gets them to listen.
Maybe you say, “I have 20 minutes on the agenda today. Here’s a math equation for you. I plan to make 3 points in 10 minutes. That means your attention only needs to be really strong for the next 10 minutes because I am quite sure you will listen more intently if I am brief and then seated.”
But nobody does it that way. The average speaker has too many slides, too many points to make, and speaks too many words. If speakers prepared more intentionally to use mystery, surprise, and curiosity to get mental access, they would be far more effective and sought after as speakers.
What Should Be Said?
Years ago someone said to me, “The best presentation is one that says all that should be said not all that could be said.”
Be as concise as possible, without losing the impact and point of what you’re saying. When speakers fill in the gaps with useless information to “fluff” it up, they lose people. Audiences aren’t stupid. They’re there for a reason: to listen and learn. Give them something worth hearing.
So, to be successful at relaying a message to others, prepare to gain mental access, and you will be revered by your audience no matter the size. More importantly, your audience will not forget what you said because it was unique and interesting.