Creating a presentation involves an incredible number of calculations. How many words fill the allotted number of minutes? How many ideas should be presented and how many facts to support them? How many PowerPoint slides? How much of the time should be dedicated to the opening, the closing and allowing for laughter when you engage your wit?
But the biggest calculation of all involves how to put all the components together so they will add up to the “Wow” factor.
That desired state is an elusive one. You don’t know exactly how to calculate it, but you know when you’ve reached it. People can’t stop talking about you in a positive way; your personal brand skyrockets. More and more speaking invitations pour in.
Start with the basics
As with all equations, there are some basic components that comprise the Wow factor. If you don’t start with these, whether you are giving a commencement address, addressing a workshop on your area of expertise, or making remarks at a wedding, you will miss the mark.
There are four basic laws of Wow:
1. Know your audience and gear your remarks to them. For example, if you are a scientist addressing a group of colleagues, support your point of view with facts and logical arguments. If you are speaking to an audience at an informal gathering, get them involved by interacting with them. If you are seeking to make an emotional connection with your audience to move them to support your cause, tell stories that touch their heartstrings.
2. Pack your speech like you pack a backpack you must carry up a hill. Assemble everything in it that you think you need. The mandatorily remove half of it. Heft it and realize you still have too much extraneous junk in it that won’t really help you on your journey. Remove half again as much. Then take each remaining item and consider carefully whether it is really essential to help you get to where you are going.
3. Create a situation where you can move freely. If you really want to get personal and wow your audience, remove as many hindrances between you and them as possible. If the arrangement has you sitting behind a table, get up and remove that barrier. You may depend on a podium for comfort, but if you can clear it, you will get closer to your audience. Insist on ridding yourself of a stationary microphone if at all possible.
4. Tell great stories to illustrate your points. It’s a rule of Wow that the person with the best stories wins. Don’t waste your time telling a story unless it is compelling. If you listen to yourself make a point with a story and it doesn’t bring the issue right home, find another story. It will be worth your time and effort to get the perfect one.
These four points will help you build the foundation of Wow. But to get all the way to the finish line and leave your audience leaping to a standing ovation, you will need more. You need to think of which technique will be comfortable for you and credible to your audience and then develop it to the utmost of your imagination.
Here are four examples of the Wow factor in action that illustrate the other tools and techniques you can calculate into your winning equation.
Tell people what they need to hear
The conference halls of the nation are full of speakers eager to tell the audience what they want to hear, but few have the courage to tell them what they need to hear.
The late American President Franklin D. Roosevelt understood that.
His inaugural address after being elected President in 1932 scored in the highest decibels of the Wow factor. Speaking to a burdened and bleak nation at the height of the Great Depression, he told the American people not they wanted to hear (that times were tough and he would fix them) but that they needed to stop being afraid and work together to fix the times.
His amazing “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” speech resonated across a nation and empowered them when they most needed it. Listen to the power of his remarks in his address:
When you shock people by refusing to give them the message they are expecting and think they want, and instead give authentic value by delivering a better message that empowers them and invigorates their spirit, you will always arrive at the Wow factor.
Make a spectacular entrance
The average speaker reaches the stage with the minimum fanfare of a pleasant introduction, a murmur of polite applause, and a short walk to the podium.
But if you really want to start out with the Wow factor, make a completely different entrance.
Consider how comedian Whoopi Goldberg rode through the sky in a feather-accented costume to land on the stage of the 2002 Academy Awards
With her spectacular entrance and outlandish costume, she shocked and delighted her audience, giving her the Wow factor even before she started her opening monologue.
You may not want to go as far as Whoopi did to get a Wow, but altering your course from the expected with certainly wake up your audience that something different is going on and they should pay attention.
Give them two for the price of one
Before Dr. Mehmet Oz was a superstar in his own right, he was still a major player in the public speaking arena.
He and Ophra Winfrey often teamed up to deliver Wow factor segments together. He would take fairly complicated nutrition or health topics and instead of lecturing about them, he would engage in discussion with Ophra to build incredible segments.
Watch this video of Oz and Ophra together talking about Five Ingredients You Should Stop Eating Right Now
It’s classic Wow factor on how to take a relatively complicated subject and turn it into a memorable, enlightening presentation.
Oz talks about what is bad about sugar, high fructose corn syrup, enriched white flour, saturated fat and finally, hydrogenated vegetable oil.
He gets into the real science of hydrogenated oils, for example, but every time the subject gets complicated, Ophra either repeats the key words, or she puts it in context for her viewers (I could use this on my feet to make them smoother) or she says simply “tell me that again,” just at the point where the average viewer is starting to feel lost.
Chances are you can’t secure Ophra as your sidekick, but if you have a complicated subject and you can use props of it and bring another person on stage to foster a conversational approach, you can still elicit a Wow factor.
Remove the barriers and get your body right into your words
A final way to achieve Wow is to take away anything and everything that stands between you and your target audience. Be as intimate with them as you would be to a guest conversing with you in your living room.
A master at the art of removing the barriers and immersing his entire body into his message delivery system is motivational speaker Anthony (Tony) Robbins.
Watch him communicate in this video of a Tony Robbins Seminar – Greatest Secret Ever – Tony Robbins on the Power of Choice
With more than 1.2 million views, this video is Robbins at his ultimate Wow. Note how he focuses on describing situations that everyone can relate to and how he uses expansive gestures to ensure everyone feels included in what he has to stay.
When you remove the podium, remove the microphone and remove all the distractions, you can see how easily the speaker is able to connect directly with you. When you add an ability to emphasize every word with hand gestures, including even the snap of fingers at key points, you have a natural Wow factor.