5 presentation lessons from PopUp magazine

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Written by

Paula Tesch

Pop-Up Magazine - A Live Event

You may have heard of a storytelling event in San Francisco called PopUp Magazine. If you’re lucky, you’ve attended it. And if you happened to draw the short straw, you’ve experienced the anxiety-inducing process that is purchasing “one of San Francisco’s hottest tickets.” The Wall Street Journal said that, and they’re right.

There are a lot of things that make PopUp Magazine sell out faster than most concerts, but I’ve outlined five magical elements that you can translate to your own presentations, and get you a little closer to a frenzied audience of adoring fans.

1. Make it a “For one night only!” experience.

Pop-Up Magazine is the world’s first live magazine, created for a stage, a screen, and a live audience. Nothing will arrive in your mailbox. Nothing will go online. Nothing will be filmed or recorded. An issue exists for one night, in one place.

If a person can get everything they need from reading your slide deck, why do they need you? To deliver a great presentation, you must make it worthwhile for your audience to show up. You can offer “bonus material” like anecdotes, live Q&A, special guest appearances, giveaways for audience participation… or just an authentic, present performance. Anything to make your presentation worth their attendance. This shows that you value your audience’s presence, and creates buzz about you as a presenter. If an audience member leaves thinking, “Wow, I’m so glad I came!” they’re going to share your message with a very different tone than if they walked away wishing they had their hour back.

2. Be an expert. And if you can’t be one, find one.

Pop-Up Magazine showcases the country’s most interesting writers, documentary filmmakers, photographers, radio producers, and illustrators, together on stage, sharing new stories, new work.

Each speaker at PopUp is an expert in his or her field. Their individual expertise lends each of them a casual confidence that is absolutely compelling. This doesn’t mean you have to become a subject matter expert in very topic in your presentation. But if you can find someone to explain a concept better than you can, invite him or her to do it. This will help your credibility, and also help you accomplish the next point on the list…

3. Mix it up like a magazine.

Each evening of Pop-Up Magazine unfolds like a magazine. Short reviews, dispatches, and provocations anchor the front. Longer features follow in the back. Our theme is no theme. Pop-Up Magazine seeks to explore the varied world around us, through stories and ideas.

These days, nearly every crowd is a tough crowd. Television and internet are creating ever-dwindling attention spans, smartphones and devices have given us covert boredom busters, and our rigorous schedules have left our minds wandering away from anything but the task at hand. To keep your audience’s attention, keep them guessing. Even just changing your vocals or the visuals will help keep their eyes on you, and off their devices.

4. Stop talking before your audience stops listening.

Science, music, politics, art, business, food, literature, design, nature–all in a 100-minute show.

It takes more preparation to be succinct, but it’s worth it. Not only will it keep your audience engaged, keeping yourself on a short timeline will help you crystallize your thinking and explain it in the simplest terms. Just because you have an hour doesn’t mean you need to take the full hour.

5. Leave Time for Q&A.

Then we move to the lobby bar, and invite audience and contributors to stick around late. A Q&A is more fun with drinks in hand.

The wonderful part of a presentation, compared to any other medium, is the realtime connection between speaker and audience. Allowing for a live Q&A session lets you maximize the audience’s engagement, and lets you bring more of your personality into your presentation. (Drinks will help that, too.) Engaging with your viewers on a personal level humanizes you, enhances your credibility, and allows the attendees to extend their experience with your presentation.

Think about your audience’s experience beyond your last line, to the feeling they’ll take into their next meeting, and into the rest of their week. Take the time to make your presentation a compelling, unique experience that will stay with them until the next time they’re lucky enough to hear you speak.