A presentation occurs during a set time frame. It has a beginning and an ending. This might be comforting to think about if you are nervous about it. But all presenters want our words to have impact outside of our presentations. In order to do that, we have to think about the presentation less like an event and more like an immersive experience.
Today we’ll take some cues from film director James Cameron and apply them to the world of presenting.
Lessons from Avatar
In his book The Art of Immersion, Frank Rose shares some of the story of how James Cameron created the world of Avatar. He says that he wanted to create an epic world. For any given movie, directors go to great lengths to create a backstory. But as Rose says, “most of the time all that work remains hidden in notebooks and drawings that no one outside the production ever sees.” But Cameron didn’t want that to happen with Avatar. Sure, he wanted the casual viewer to enjoy it, but he wanted there to be more levels available for those who wanted to interact more fully with the world.
In other words, he wanted there to be enough content to the world for people to continue to explore it and interact with it if they chose to. To that end, he created full dictionaries describing the flora and fauna of the Avatar world. He continued the story in the gaming world. He created online experiences where fans could uncover more of the secrets of Avatar. In this way, he expanded a film—an event—into an experience. And he turned viewers into fans.
The Immersive Presentation
As I see it, in order to make our presentations more immersive, we have to do what Cameron did. We have to give our audience members a chance to interact with our ideas at different levels both inside and outside of the presentation. Not everyone is going to want to interact with your presentation content at the same level. But your job as a presenter is turn audience members into fans. Here’s how:
Offer Information Via Different Avenues:
Put your information out in a variety of formats and communicate clearly how to access these. If you are using apps, printed material, videos, and websites, you’ll likely capture more people because they have the ability to interact with you and your information in the format with which they are most comfortable. This can happen during your presentation if you use a multimedia format, but it can also be used following your presentation if you offer them ways to learn more. Within the online formats, work to create layers of information so that a user can continue to dig deeper if they choose to do so. Cameron did this with websites and books and games, allowing fans to immerse themselves in his world via their preferred format.
Appeal to Emotion & Senses:
Why do we usually only think about engaging our listeners’ minds when we give presentations? When we interact with our world, we do so with our brain, body, heart, and soul. This shouldn’t stop when a presentation begins. Multi-sensory presentations have been scientifically proven to keep the audience’s attention better. If we want to create immersive presentations, we have to think about ways to expand this experience. Here are a couple ideas to get you started:
- Make time for audience members to move into smaller groups and talk about topics that encourage vulnerability.
- Ask listeners to stand as a way of casting a vote, getting their bodies out of the chairs.
- Use lights and sound and smells in ways that break into a boring board room and create a new “world.”
- Take the audience “outside of the room” via well-crafted and beautiful presentation graphics and slides.
To move from event to experience, we have to offer ways for our listeners to access different forms of content and to engage more wholistically with our presentations. It’s time for us to stop creating scripts and to start creating more immersive content strategies.
Need help crafting an immersive world for your next presentation experience? We can help.