Don’t “Show Up and Throw Up” and Hope for the Best

My first big presentation was as a senior in high school. I had to give a two-hour talk on “utopianism.” Little did I know that this would span the continuum between what makes a terrible talk and a good one.

Here was the train wreck part. I had no idea how long two hours really were and how much information it would take to fill them.

My default became “throw everything in there — because nothing could be worse than running out of things to say!”

That might have been the case for me, but the opposite was true for my classmates, who were being inundated with data. I can almost picture their eye-rolling today!

Here’s the only reason they didn’t give me the raspberry. A week before speaking, I had them take a multiple choice survey on how they would design their ideal society.

That meant they were curious about the results and willing to let me slog through everything else to get to the part about them.

Here’s what I wish I’d known then.

According to Dr. Carmen Simon, a cognitive scientist, there are three levels of processing your brain can do with language:

  1. Physical: the features of the letters in a word
  2. Phonological: the sound combinations in a word
  3. Semantic: the meaning of the word

The first two are surface level. Only when you get to semantic — where people are paying attention to how what you’re saying can affect their lives — can you get them to process your ideas at deeper level. That’s what’s required if you want to create a longer-lasting memory.

Make sure your next presentation uses this and the other two tips in the video. Be memorable — for the right reasons!