Why is it that some speakers captivate an audience from the very start of their presentation while other speakers don’t?
Great presenters have structure to their presentations and a consistent format they use to ensure fabulous presentations every time they speak to a group. Great presenters understand that individuals within the audience have different learning styles and they know how to grab the attention of each.
Based on the work of David Kolb and Bernice McCarthy, the 4-Mat System is one of the most widely used learning and teaching systems today. The 4-Mat system is an easy and practical way to prepare presentations. Based on this system, there are 4 basic learning styles: “why”, “what”, “how” and “what if”.
Why learners need to have their why questions answered before they will be interested in hearing about the “what”, “how” or “what if”. They need reasons and relevance. As a presenter, you need to answer the question: “Why” is this topic important to the audience. They learn best by listening and sharing. The more reasons you can offer to answer the question “why” or “why not”, the more likely you will capture the interest of the “why” learner/participant who will represent the largest portion of your audience at about 35%. I once observed a presenter who went right into the “what” of his presentation skipping the “why” only to have “why” questions popping up throughout his presentation, slowing down the flow and confusing the heck out of the audience.
What learners are more patient than why learners so they will patiently wait to have why questions addressed. They will be interested in “what” the topic is all about. They will want to know the specifics about the topic. They will want to know as much information as you can provide on the topic to deepen their understanding. So it is important you fill up their “what” before you move to addressing the how. These learners learn by thinking through ideas. About 22% of your audience will be “what” learners.
How learners will patiently wait for the why and what information to be provided. They are interested in “how” it works. They want to know about how to apply the information. They will be interested in trying it out, experimenting or practicing and learn best by testing theories in ways that make sense. About 18% of your audience will be “how” learners.
What if learners, the most patient of learners, will sit through the why, what and the how and they will be most interested in the application of the material. What would happen if? What if I did this? They will look for the hidden possibilities. They will patiently sit through the presentation and then have a list of questions to ask during the question and answer period. They learn best through trial and error. They will represent about 25% of the audience.
Here are the 4 easy steps to ensure consistently interesting presentations:
1. Start your presentation with a thorough list of reasons why your topic is of importance. Use wording like: “Here is why you want to know about this topic.” Share with your audience all the benefits of knowing about the topic to gain their interest and keep them interested in learning more.
2. Then tell the audience what your topic is all about. Here is where you get to share everything you know about the topic. Use wording like: “Here’s what the topic is all about” or “Here’s what you need to know about this topic”.
3. Then tell the audience how to. This might include describing steps of a process, providing a demonstration, doing a group activity or exercise so that they get to experience the presentation content. “Here’s how to do x”.
4. Lastly, you should include a question and answer period at the end of your presentation so that what if questions can be fully answered.
Be the speaker that captivates his/her audience from now on.