what’s wrong with wow momets in presentations

I often get asked how to make ‘stand out’ moments in presentations. People want/need presentations to be memorable, and moments that make your audience go “Wow” are a great way of doing that. But there’s a problem.

Presentations with stand-out (wow) moments mean that’s what people will remember! That’s true almost by definition. Why? Because WOW moments are designed to do that.

The old ‘big mountain’ comparison for presentations

This comparison is as old as the dirt these mountains are made of but stick with me for a moment to compare Everest and Uluru.

Everest - presented in a chain of mountains
Uluru - presented nicely!

Which is bigger? Everest, obviously. It’s the tallest point on the planet.

But which stands out more? Uluru.

Why? Everest is surrounded by mountains that are almost as high as it is, whereas Uluru stands up in the middle of a flat expanse.

The point I’m making is that if your presentation is as flat as the land around Uluru, your single moment of stand-out brilliance is going to be easy to spot, and it’s fantastically memorable. That’s not bad in itself… But the fact is that your stand out moment – your WOW moment – is likely to be the only bit of your presentation audiences remember.

It’s not just your audience who concentrate on the presentation’s WOW moments either

Nope. It’s going to be you, too.

Let’s face it, WOW moments tend to have a bit more technical demand to them. And the more tech there is, the more effort it takes to make it work. In turn, that means that you’ve got less energy/time/focus/etc to spread through the rest of your presentation.

Take a look at this animation of a slide I use when I’m talking about body language. I’ve carefully designed it to look like people are seeing a handout and then zooming in on different parts of it.

Frankly it’s awesome and never fails to impress people when they see it. The downside is that your audience engages with how cool it is. They think less about the content (as the point above) but this one slide took as long to create as half of the rest of the presentation put together!

I’m a pro, so I leave pleeeeeeenty of time for that sort of thing… But imagine if I was shorter on time and then get sucked down that rabbit hole! And don’t try to tell me that if you’re short of time you’d just not go for the WOW moment stuff. If you get hooked, you’re hooked… and the rest of the presentation be damned! 馃槈

So what’s the solution?

Engaging is different from entertaining. As soon as you’ve got your head around that, things start to fall into place. WOW moments tend to be about entertainment… and let’s face it, if you need to add entertainment to your presentation you’re admitting your presentation’s a bit rubbish in the first place.

So instead of having a flat presentation with a few Uluru-like WOW moments, spend time boosting the engagement-value of the rest of your presentations. I’m not saying no entertainment, just that the rest of your presentation should be so interesting you don’t need to add it in patches.

How you do that, of course, depends on the content, you, your audience, your message, and everything else.

Are there exceptions?

Of course. Every rule has exceptions and there’s been some interesting conversations about this point on a related LinkeIn post. One of the things that really struck me was a question about presentations which are pretty much purely marketing. The aim of the presentation itself then is pretty much purely to be memorable…

… so Wow moments are not only allowed there, they’re a home run!

Mind you, even then it’s not quite a clear cut as you might hope. Remember this video of the gorilla playing drums? But unless you read the title, know the opening strapline or recognise the colour in the background, there’s a good chance that, like most of the audience when this advert was first presented to us, you’ll go “Cool… but what…?”

But yeah, I admit it, this just an excuse to show the coolest advert of all time again 馃檪

Want this in a two minute video – with cute kitten pictures?


I talked a bit about this towards the end of this post on props in presentations:https://presentationgenius.info/using-props-in-presentations/(opens in a new tab)

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