Imagine a beautiful Welsh beach …imagine having a great day body boarding on some pretty big surf waves and then heading back to shore to meet your family, big smiles all round. Then imagine someone struggling out of the surf near you and shouting about his young mate who is in trouble further out. Imagine looking up you see this young man beyond the breaking waves – hands above his head …. then he disappears.
It’s the word imagine linked with a story which is a great hook to any presentation. I’ve used this real story to grab attention when talking about hope and a reflecting on the real things in life.
The story continues. I played a small part in bringing the drowning fella to shore. He survived and now lives in Australia with a young daughter. His near-death experience changed the young man’s life priorities and it made me think a bit as well.
Ric Elias, in his short TED talk, uses the same imagine hook. Ric had a front row seat on the aircraft that crash landed in the Hudson River. He uses that scary moment to reflect on priorities in his life and he challenges his audience to imagine the experience that he had and how they might feel in the same situation.
Imagine is a powerful word and in getting any message across, inviting your audience to picture a scene or emotion, is evocative.
It’s a great presentation hook. When running my presentation skills courses, I first ask attendees to reflect on what is their hook to grab their audience’s attention in the first 10 seconds. Please don’t begin with ‘My name is….blah blah blah’…I’m switched off already. The use of the word imagine, linked to a genuine story, is one technique to grab attention…and it works.
The word imagine, is about visualisation. You are asking your audience to picture what you are saying. It’s all about the emotional response and connection. It taps into our knowledge of the world but also adds something different; something new.
6 Tips for using imagine as a presentation hook:
1: Invite your audience into your story and to imagine themselves in that situation
Ric invites his audience to be sitting next to him on the aircraft and then paints a picture of what was happening at the time. He then asks his audience to reflect on how they would feel in that moment.
2: Be authentic
Don’t make a story up – ‘keep it real’, said Ali G and he’s right. If it’s a fake story it’s much harder to speak with passion and believability.
3: Pauses are good
I am a fan of a slight pause in speech. It’s a good rhetorical technique if you are a fast talker; it allows the opportunity to reboot yourself. It’s also a good tool to use to give a chance for your audience to visualise the image or scenario that you have just painted. You can look around the room whilst you have paused and read those eyes and faces!
4: Use all the senses in your imagery
Sight, smell, touch, taste, sound – all part of our sensory makeup. You don’t have to ask the audience to use them all, but a couple are powerful – not just the visuals. For example, Ric mentions the clack, clack, clack of the engine. I bet just asking your audience to imagine the smell of coffee or freshly baked bread, creates an emotional sensory feeling and probably mouth-watering physical reaction as well.
5: Hope and happy days
Messages of hope and positive resolutions are good ways to conclude a presentation. So, use imagine, in that context at the end. The contrast of what is now and what will be. Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and oranges were apples or vice versa. Well, you know what I mean.
6: Don’t make it too complex
Paint a picture but don’t over complicate it. You are asking your audience to use their imagination so allow them to do that. Point them in the right direction but don’t give all the answers; allow them to use their mind.