At my referrals group yesterday, two of the speakers tried something new and different, and delivered engaging presentations that successfully captured and kept the audience's attention.
Changing up the opening
Stephanie Burris, an optometrist, decided to have fun with her opening. She held up a magazine advertisement showing a model wearing a couture dress and sunglasses down both arms. She asked what we noticed about the picture. After some audience responses, she replied, "I wanted to show you the wrong way to wear sunglasses." A fun and slightly silly way to kick off her talk.
Sharing real-life examples
Her talk was a case study of one of her patients: a fellow member of our group. She described three different visits, each one due to some sort of vision deterioration. She used images and props to show us how his eyes were physically changing, and described the process of figuring out what kinds of glasses he needed, based on his lifestyle and occupation.
Learning how she works with a real patient to figure out what's wrong and how to fix it was almost like watching a detective tracking down evidence in a case. It brought her work to life and was much more interesting than dry facts or statistics about eyes.
Using someone else's words
Then Greg Lowe, an attorney who is also a mediator, recited Lincoln's second inaugural address, as an example of a speech that sought to heal wounds and bring the nation back together after four years of civil war. Lincoln chose not to place blame on either side, and to look to the future rather than the past. Here's the final paragraph of the speech:
"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."
Greg's inspired decision to read this powerful and timely speech instead of spelling out in detail what he does as a mediator paid off with rapt audience attention.
Both speakers used real-world examples to describe their work, connecting with the audience in a new way, and shaking up the status quo a little in the process. I hope future speakers in our group take note of these methods and try a little innovation and creativity the next time they speak.