When you speak, break the pattern

Presentation Guru LogoI am one of the co-founders of Presentation Guru, a digital magazine for public speaking professionalsThis post is part of a series designed to share the great content on Presentation Guru with the Manner of Speaking community.


In my seven-part series on Chip and Dan Heath’s classic, Made to Stick, one of the posts dealt with the power of being unexpected.

The Heaths say, “If you want your ideas to be stickier, you’ve got to break someone’s guessing machine and then fix it.”  You have to break their pattern of thinking in a way that creates surprise and interest. However, you must do so in a way that is relevant and thoughtful.  Being unexpected in a constructive way involves much more than just doing something crazy.

The Heaths continue: “The easiest way to avoid gimmicky surprise and ensure that your unexpected ideas produce insight is to make sure you target an aspect of your audience’s guessing machines that relates to your core message.”

And yet, how often do speakers fall into the same old patterns? A bland opening, going through slide after slide of information, a weak conclusion, asking for questions at the end.

When you speak, break the pattern!

Pieces of coloured chalk

Inspired by Joseph Haydn’s Surprise Symphony, Stephen Welch has written a post to help you break the pattern the next time you have a presentation. He offers concrete advice that you can break the patterns of your audience’s thinking in your presentations. Fittingly, he divides his ideas into the following musical techniques 

  • Overture – Open your presentation in a creative way
  • Key change – Change the tone of your voice at key moments
  • Rest bars – The power of the pause
  • The instrumental solo – Videos, music and more
  • Intermission – Ways to give your audience a break
  • Encore – End on a strong note

To learn more about these techniques, please read Stephen’s post.


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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