I just got back from lunch and the thought of sitting through a Powerpoint presentation was not high on my list. As I sat down I noticed the speaker adjusting his laptop and making final preparations. The screen was black and I settled in for what I perceived to be an hour of torture. The combination of a large lunch and a boring presentation usually equated to one thing… a nap.
The torture part came in by trying to stay awake and not nod off in front of the group of administrators. I had been here before and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. As the clock rolled around to 1 pm the speaker got up and introduced himself and started with slide one.
The five bullet points almost guaranteed that I would be nodding quickly. As he moved through the slides, the stock Powerpoint background droned on and the bullet points became a blur. I nodded once… but caught myself in time.
Right then something totally unexpected happened. As he clicked to slide number 6, a slide with a picture and amazing numbers came up. I sat up in my chair and I found myself actually paying attention. I hadn’t expected the numbers to be so high.
The following slides built his case and soon he had my undivided attention. Even though the speaker had made many of the common Powerpoint mistakes, his one unforeseen slide had redeemed him.
It was the power of the unexpected that drew me in.
It was the questions that suddenly popped in my head… How could this be? How could the numbers be so high?
It was like a sudden plot twist in a movie… I needed to know what was going to happen.
This is the power of unexpectedness. As Chip & Dan Heath describe in their new book, Made to Stick, the need to find out What will happen next? and How will it turn out? are powerful motivators.
They cite a study by behavioral scientist, George Loewenstein, of Carnegie Mellon University on situational interest. The study found that curiosity happens when we feel a gap in our knowledge.
These gaps cause pain.
When we want to know something but don’t, it’s like having an itch we need to scratch. To take away the pain we need to fill in the knowledge gap.
This simple reality can cause your audience to sit on the edge of their seats.
This can be a simple fact, an inflated number, or possibly an unexpected picture.
Find something unexpected and include it in your presentation.
Remember this simple fact…
Expected = Sleep
Unexpected = Attention