Will Smith’s keys to a great presentation

Leo Babauta from the blog Zen Habits recently posted his Top 5 most inspirational videos on YouTube. I hadn’t come across this remix of a speech by Will Smith (the remix is by TeamJonny5 – I’ve edited it slightly). It’s only 1 min 19 sec so take the time to watch it because in this short snippet Will Smith showcases the elements of great speech design :

[kml_flashembed movie=”http://speakingaboutpresenting.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/will-smith.swf” height=”300″ width=”550″ /]

OK, it’s not a corporate or business presentation. But I bet if I asked you in 6 months time “What are Will Smith’s keys to life?” – you could tell me.  That’s because it’s got great design for stickability. What makes this speech so memorable that you can use when you plan your next business presentation?

1. Key Message

Will Smith has a clear key message:

“Running and reading are the keys to life”

It’s short. It’s concrete – you can visualise running and reading. It’s easy to grasp, it’s easy to repeat. The fact that it rhymes may be the reason why. In Yes: 50 secrets from the science of persuasion Cialdini and his co-authors cite research that shows that rhyming phrases are processed more easily. That’s not unexpected – but more surprising is that rhyming phrases are also seen as more accurate!

So see if you too, can make your key message rhyme.

2. Repetition

He says his key message twice near the beginning and uses it again to wrap up. When we’re writing we’re taught not to repeat ourselves – but repetition works great in an oral presentation. In a longer presentation, you can say your key message even more often. Ending with the key message is a great wrap-up which gives the presentation a sense of completion.

3. Flagging

Will Smith tells us to pay attention to his Key message: “I want you to listen closely, I’m giving you the keys to life.” I call this technique flagging, because it’s like you’re waving a flag to your audience to say – pay attention to this next bit -it’s the most important. In a business presentation you might say something like: “Here’s the most important thing I want you to get today.”

If you don’t flag your key message, there’a a risk that it will get lost, like a needle in the haystack of your words.

4. Simple structure

Will Smith has a very simple two-part structure for this speech:

  • Running – why it’s important
  • Reading – why it’s important

The purpose of structure is to make a presentation easy to follow and understand for the audience. Don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be.

Of course, the speech doesn’t just have great content, Will Smith also delivers it with passion. He’s really intent on getting his message across to his audience of screaming young people.

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