One of the funniest memories I have of college was the day I showed up for class and changed my mind. You see I was a freshman at the time, drunk off the ability to set my own class schedule and have freedom on if I came to class or not. One afternoon, I went to class with my friend from high school and before class started, we looked at each other and said, “Let’s blow this pop stand and go get some lunch.” We grabbed our purses and American history books, and we high tailed it out of there. On the way down the hall, we came face to face with the professor of that class. Oops. We did not plan our escape and when he asked us where we were going, we sputtered out the first thing we could think of, “Just to the bathroom!”
I’m sure he figured out we ditched after about twenty minutes. If it didn’t, then Dr. H is still standing in the halls of McBrien waiting for us to come back. Now I know what you’re thinking – How could the history nerd walk out of an American history class? The answer is simple – Dr. H was the worst public speaker of all time. Don’t be surprised. He was a nice man, I’m sure he was a very smart person, but he simply was not an engaging professor. Here kids, read this syllabus. Here, let’s all read chapters from our history books out loud. He was dry and I barely passed his class by the skin of my teeth.
On the flip side of the coin, I had a World History teacher, Dr. S, who was the most engaging professor I have ever come across. Every day in her class was exciting. She always had some sort of story about the historical figures we were discussing – like how Napoleon is the reason there are three buttons on military jackets. His men were always wiping their runny noses with their sleeves and soiling them. Napoleon added another button to the sleeve so that they wouldn’t be able to wipe their noses.
Dr. S knew how to use little interesting tidbits to engage us and in comparison to Dr. H, I passed her class with flying colors. When it comes to engaging with your audience there are some things you can do to be like Dr. S. She made sure that:
She was incorporating facts we may not know. Sure everyone knows who Napoleon is, but the button thing – had no clue. Dr. S knew that the key to getting her audience to retain information was to tell them something new, instead of just repeating old information we’d heard since 1st grade.
- Try to introduce your participants to new information or updated facts that will benefit your attendees.
She was communicating with us, instead of speaking at us. We were a part of the conversation and not just observing a lecture. She lobbed questions at us, surprising us by calling on those who may not be paying attention.
- Have a conversation with participants and don’t just tell them things. Even if they are quiet and listening intently, you can still get them involved by using humor or asking questions.
She had the best tone of voice. Dr. S loved what she did, and you could tell by the way she spoke about history. She was never anything but enthusiastic while teaching us. Every time she opened her mouth, there was love and passion for the subject of history. It’s something I learned from her.
- Remember that if you’re going to speak about something, it should be something you’re passionate about – your tone of voice is the most powerful thing that you have to get your audience’s attention.
Dr. S was a great professor, and above all the super cool things she told me, she was also memorable and I wanted to take her classes again. When it comes to hosting presentations and events, becoming memorable and enjoyable is what is going to keep people coming back for more. What are you doing to make your presentations unforgettable? How are you like Dr. S?