With just about one more week to go before the Falling Walls Lab takes place, there is still time for the finalists to make their 3-minute talk stand out from the crowd. Here are some powerful tips to make ideas easily and quickly understood, remembered, and most importantly, move people to action.
You want to grab our attention and make us curious in the first sentence. You can do this with a thought-provoking question or statement. You can do this with a stunning visual. You can make us laugh, make us curious, make us angry. In these first seconds you want to get your audience out of “stand by“ modus and get them actively listening to you.
After you have our attention how do you keep it? What are the benefits of listening to your talk? And why should I care?
This may seem obvious to you, but it won’t be for the majority of others. In public speaking we refer to the benefits as: WIIFM – what’s in it for me? Every listener wants to know this. If you can convince the audience, how they benefit by continued listening, you will have them on board for the rest of your talk.
Normally in an introduction, you want to establish your credibility. I recommend not spending any of your precious three minutes referring to your biographical background. The fact that you were invited to the Falling Walls Lab is credible enough. Congratulations! Your contact and biographical details will be listed in the program and website.
Body of your Talk
A classic structure is to establish your one core message and have three points to support it. Notice the numbers here! One message and three main supporting points. The more you squeeze in the listeners’ minds, the more you squeeze out. There will be a 100 talks. Use your time to calmly spark interest and curiosity and not hectically try to explain years’ of detailed research in three minutes.
The Art of Persuasion
You want the audience to believe what you believe. Whether it is: lead is poisoning our water with dangerous results, or noise pollution is lessening our quality of life, whatever it is you want the audience to consider and take action – how do you get the audience to believe what you believe?
Aristotles once said in his essay on the Art of Persuasion that we need to use three appeals to influence people: logos, ethos, and pathos. Logos is the use of logic, rationality, the facts and figures. This is something that scientists naturally strive at. Ethos is your credibility. You have been invited to this prestigious stage, so ethical appeal is also checked. Pathos is appealing to your audience’s emotions. For the skeptics out there, new findings in the field of neuroscience back up the enormous influence emotion has on our behavior, opinion, and decision-making. I’ll list several interesting sources below.*
So how do you add emotional appeal to your talk? Tell a relevant, compelling story! Share a personal experience, which has inspired your work. Tell us about the person whose life has changed because of your idea. If that change has not happened yet, you can paint a picture of the future with this new idea or share your vision: “Imagine what your world would be like if …..“
Call to Action
What should we do with the information you have just given us? In public speaking, this is referred to as your Call to Action. For example, perhaps your project established quiet areas around Berlin. You may say to the audience: So download our app and discover how these quiet areas can add quality to your urban life.
Before you end, have you told the audience your one core message again and again and again? Yes, that was three times! (at least) Repetition is crucial for the audience to remember. Especially nowadays when we are drowning in so much information and our minds are easily distracted.
As you leave the stage, what message would you like to echo throughout the room and in the minds of the audience? This last statement should be profound and inspiring. Notice how pauses and intonation highlight the meaning of the words.
We knew what we wanted. (pause)
We knew how we wanted to do it. (pause)
And we knew why (pause) And that made all the difference.
And in closing, to all my colleagues here this evening and around the world, I would like to leave you with the words of Jacob Bronowski:
Science is a great many things, (pause) but in the end (pause) they all return to this (pause): Science is the acceptance of what works (pause) and the rejection of what does not. (pause) That needs more courage (pause) than we might think.
Edit, edit, edit.
Keep you talk concise and precise by choosing every word you will say. When you write out your talk, you will notice words that are not necessary – take them out.
“I would like to ask you
found to be dangerous in water.
Be exact with your word choices.
The bottle loses water. Other verbs describe this action more precisely: water evaporates, drips, gushes out.
Add descriptive language that appeals to our senses:
And when you touch this, it feels like old, dried up leather.
Metaphors are excellent to help the listener better understand a concept by comparing it to something they already know:
That would be like trying to drive on the highway with your emergency brakes on.
Help the audience to find the relevance in your numbers:
Every year companies spend 5 million US dollars for a 30-second commercial spot during the Superbowl. That is over 166,000 dollars per second.
One last note: Visuals
Decide on the ONE important point that you think the audience needs to see to better understand and remember your main idea. Take that one point and make it big and bold and easier to see. Remember the audience has to look at 100 slides in Berlin – filter the information for them. If they are interested in your topic they will approach you and ask for more detail.
Your slide shouldn’t look like a PhD candidate’s poster because
1) the audience is sitting too far away to see all the important details.
2) when the audience is busy interpreting your slide, they aren’t focused on what your are saying.
Once you have a clear structure and a concise, precise way to express it, you are ready for the next phase: the delivery.
In my next blog post, I’d like to share with you some worthwhile ideas about speaking with impact.
Dyane Neiman, is the business owner of Moving Speaker and a speaker coach for ZenithTALK, Roche pRED awards, and Falling Wall Lab, among others. She founded a non-profit, monthly storytelling event in Berlin called The Bear. Dyane remains dedicated to inspiring people from all walks of life to discover the power of their own voice and their own stories to move audiences to action.
Get in touch: email@example.com
* Sources for the Power of Storytelling:
Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling; by Paul J. Zak: Harvard Business Review; October 28, 2014.
The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains; by Leo Widrich; 12/05/12; lifehacker.com