I’m Curious: What’s Your Big Idea?

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In a world of countless (often similar) presentations – how to do you get people to really pay attention?

Many presentations are issue-focused: here are the facts, organized to persuade you to accept our position.  It gets boring.  Chris Anderson, in his book on Ted Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking proposes an alternative approach: develop curiosity. Think of how we all listen to stories: we want to listen to the whole message because we’re curious as to how it will turn out, so we stay till the end.

The key is to present an idea, not an issue. As he notes, June Cohen noticed that idea-based talks lead with curiosity, whereas issue-based talks lead with lessons – morality, capitalism, sustainability, etc.  An issue exposes a problem; an idea proposes a solution. An issue may be something I know something about; an idea proposed something I may not yet know, so I will feel that this may make a difference to me. You’re not just asking them to care about your issue; instead you’re taking the audience on a journey to discuss a puzzle and offer a solution as a gift,

For instance, we all know (the issue) that despite millions of research dollars; no magic bullet has been found to solve Alzheimer’s Disease. However, here’s another approach: the idea that a pill may not be the right approach. Instead using a series of therapies together has shown some indication that it might actually slow the progression of AD and possibly reverses some of its impacts. Are you curious to know about this approach, how it would work, what kinds of trials and FDA tests has it gone through? Is it available to use? Can I invest in the companies engaged in the R&D and commercialization?

Engaging the audience through curiosity requires that you, as the speaker, need to use your best ADAP attributes: Audience-Driven and Authentic Presentation) attributes. You need to be competent and passionate on the topic; you need to engage the audience in your own struggle to understand the idea and where it’s going to take everyone, so people are inspired and enthusiastic.  Unlike issue-presentations, where the goal is for the speaker to persuade the audience, here the goal is to engage the audience journey in the discovery process and paint a bold picture of the (future) idea, so we, the audience, persuades ourselves.

Next time you’re preparing a presentation, get the audience curious on what the idea means for them!  Then share with us the results of this presentation style!