|When you're making a presentation, how do you fire up your audience? There are many ways to get that Powerpoint or Keynote presentation going. But one of the most effective ways is to issue a challenge.
The audience then waits for you to succeed (or fail). But you can't fail, can you? You're a magician who has practiced the tricks to perfection.
This episode is about creating a challenge, then bringing the entire audience alive with the magic trick.
Why Creating and Meeting Challenges Fire Up An Audience
When you're sitting in a magic show, you don't doodle.
You don't take out your pen, a sheet of paper and draw weird, funny squiggles.
And that's because a magician creates action. And most of the action is centred around a challenge. And while a presentation is no magic show, there's a way to take your audience from doodle-zone to challenge-zone in a matter of minutes.
So what is the challenge-zone?
The challenge is something almost magical. Something that the audience would find hard to believe. Like for instance, a magician would make an elephant appear in the room. But the audience is skeptical—yet anticipating some action. This is the challenge-zone. In a world that's full of noise, the challenge immediately ramps up attention.
Let's slip into an early example
When I do the presentation for The Brain Audit, I will often start off telling the audience, that at about the 17 minute mark, I will get everyone in the room to think of the same question. To a skeptical audience, that seems impossible. How could any presenter know what every audience member is thinking, let alone making you think of the very same question?
But the question is based on a trigger
And if you've read The Brain Audit (which you should, if you haven't) you learn how to create the trigger. It's composed of the problem, solution and target profile. And when you string these three together, you get a single question, “What do you mean by that?”. Once the trigger is sprung, curiosity takes over, and you have the “What do you mean by that?” question at the top of your mind.
And that's just one example—so let's take another
When I do a presentation on “Pricing”, the challenge question is similar. I tell everyone that by the time I show them the price-grid, everyone will want to pay 15% more—instead of 15% less. And I'll create this desire for the more expensive option, without changing the core product. This means that if the core product is a workshop on ballroom dancing, the core product will stay the same. And yet, almost everyone in the room will choose the more expensive option.
You see the elephant in the room, don't you?
There's no elephant, but you as a magician are creating the challenge. And the audience loves the fact that there's a challenge coming up. What they love even more is that you're promising to “mess with the minds” of the entire audience. They think the guy next to them may be susceptible, but they're not going to fall for some silly trick. And this is what gives the challenge more power. The more skeptical they are, the more you're able to convert them from skeptics to fanatical fans.
There's just one itty-bitty problem: How do you construct the challenge?
The challenge must contain a method to get from A to B. It can't be just a concept. It must be something they can try for themselves. So for instance, there's this company called ioSafe. They make hard drives. And the beauty of their hard drive is that they can be dunked in water, blasted with a torch, or crushed under a road roller—and still survive. You can see how the challenge works, can't you? The challenge would be for people to try and destroy the drive.
But sure, that's a product and quite a unique product…
What about if you're selling a service or even a concept? The core of any product/service or training should be that you're able to bring results. Yet, instead of picking many points of your service or product, you pick just one. For instance, we teach a course in Photoshop colouring (for cartoonists). And the way the demonstration goes is like this—we get rid of Photoshop—and the computer.
And imagine we're at the cafe, instead
And the audience is asked to pick a letter for the “brush” tool in Photoshop. Of course, you chose B. And then to choose any number (on the keyboard) that represents 60% opacity. You may fumble, but you'll settle on 6. And then you ask them to choose between the left or right square bracket, to increase the size of the brush.
And they choose the right one—they always do. Whammo! You've shown them how to use the three core tool to colour, without so much as going next to a computer.
But it's not enough to create a challenge
You have to make sure there's a space between issuing the challenge and showing them the “elephant in the room”. Usually a good way to do this is to issue the challenge right at the start of the presentation. And give them an approximate time when you'll solve the mystery. e.g. In 17 minutes, or at the end of the first section. This keeps them focused not only on what you're saying, but on edge, anticipating the moment when you solve the mystery.
But won't the gap distract them?
Yes, there's a gap between issuing the challenge and solving it, but the audience doesn't get distracted at all. Why? Because you've been clear. You've told them the time at which the problem will be solved. Now they're ready to focus on anything else that you have to say, expecting fully well that you will keep your promise at the right time.
And even if you're an expert, you don't want the audience to take over
Notice how the magician doesn't ask your opinion when he does the magic trick? Well, the same applies to you. In every audience, there are likely to be hecklers. Or super-skeptics. You could put twenty elephants in the room and they'd still find fault with your method. If you ask the audience to raise their hand, or do something that involves audience participation, you're more than likely to run into the heckler.
That's when you've lost control
Now your carefully executed challenge is the mercy of the heckler and his agenda. It's better to meet the challenge, pause for a few seconds and let the awe seep through the crowd. Then, move along. The ones in the audience who've felt the change will come along with you, and the hecklers won't—but at least they won't get a chance to drive you off tangent.
Every product or service has a bit of magic
Every product or service can demonstrate that magic, but you can't fiddle with all the features. You have to pick one feature—the one that creates magic. And every product or service has to have this amazing “something” or it's just another me-too offering. Finding that magic is what causes the audience to gasp in amazement and come along for the rest of the ride.
So let's summarise, shall we?
1) Look for ONE element in your product or service. What is that one?
2) Introduce the challenge right at the start of your presentation.
3) Then DO NOT solve the problem. Let it linger.
4) The lingering should have a fixed point. e.g. 17 minute-mark or end of first section etc.
5) At that point, not earlier, you should reveal the solution.
6) Do not get the audience to participate. You're opening yourself up to hecklers.
7) Losing control is one thing. A heckler can make you lose status. And that's death on stage.
Once you've got the audience gobsmacked, linger for a few minutes. Let the moment sink in, then move along.
When you read this piece, it may seem almost impossible to figure out what to do next. Does your product or service really have a magic trick. Yes it does. And you will find it only if you stick to ONE feature or benefit.
That one trick is a pure attention-getter!
It pulls the audience along with you, and sure stops the doodling!