5 presentation takeaways from Bruce Springsteen

The dynamic rock star keys on certain performance elements that make his live concerts vibrant and electrifying. Apply them the next time you seek to engage your audience.

Many regard Taylor Swift as a master at audience engagement.

That’s not just talk. My friend Liana, who recently took her daughter to see Swift perform, said everybody got a wristband that would light up in correlation to the music.

Swift explained:

I like to see everyone at the concert. This is my way of seeing each and every one of you. When you are dancing, when you are moving, and when you are listening.

Swift engaged with her fans, because she could see them.

Liana, who likes to use audience engagement of rock stars as examples of great PR, then cited a post she wrote about Bruce Springsteen called, The Boss of Engagement. It has great takeaways for speakers.

If you speak as a paid keynoter, present to clients, address a board or executive team, conduct business development or lead team meetings, these essential components of a strong presentation are for you:

  1. Extreme presence. Liana says, “It’s no surprise to hear that, while playing before tens of thousands, Springsteen strives for moments of extreme presence. It culminates with the audience feeling that there is no other concert or audience more important than the one happening that night.”

If you’ve ever seen Bill Clinton speak (no matter your politics), you know he also has this quality. It’s about making every individual feel as though you are speaking directly to them. Of course, it’s easier in smaller groups, but for larger groups, try this technique.

Start by looking at audience members in the lower left-hand corner of the room. Stay there for a few minutes. Then move to the middle left-hand corner. Then the upper left-hand corner. Keep doing this until you’ve been speaking to each individual, and then start again. It takes some practice, but it works.

Related: Become a TED Talk pro with these effective techniques.

  1. The mental lean-in. Liana says, “Springsteen has described ‘the mental lean-in’ he seeks to create with the audience. It’s about creating the rebirth of moments that might not have occurred the night before.”

Many speakers use the same material over and over again. You get really smart about a topic and can think on your feet, but it also makes you stale.

Work to achieve something new in every presentation, even if it’s just citing new statistics or a new case study. Give them something no other audience has seen or heard from you.

  1. Relevance. Liana says, “A fundamental challenge in playing the same music night after night after night is staying relevant—to the audience, as well as to the music being played.”

This goes hand in hand with the mental lean-in. Trust me, you get bored with the same topic if you don’t keep it fresh. In my Spin Sucks keynote speech, I used to talk about the miraculous PR team behind Miley Cyrus. (It also creates heavy emotion in the audience, because people either love her or hate her.)

I’ve switched that opening to a discussion of other performers in order to stay relevant and in tune with today’s pop culture, rather than that of two years ago.

  1. Sustaining. Liana says, “Springsteen has said the challenge is not only creating the ‘moments,’ but also sustaining them. His own secret sauce for sustaining the moment is creating the feeling among the band and the audience that you really are not sure what is going to come next. It’s the unexpected—but in a controlled, extremely present, relevant sort of way.”

Have you ever attended a conference where you see and hear only familiar speakers presenting the same tied material?

Even though Springsteen clearly has a set list, you don’t know what he’s going to play next. Speakers can do that, too. Even though you have a set presentation and a set script, give your audience the unexpected.

  1. In concert. Liana says, “Bruce describes the ultimate concert as the moment when he, the band and the audience literally move in on themselves—the ‘in concert’ moment.”

This is when the four described above come together. When your audience is so in tuned with what you have to say that they scramble to fill out a survey and provide you with glorious feedback. They hire you on the spot. You get that promotion or raise, or you gain consensus among your team. Whatever it happens to be, you have created that “in concert” moment.

In an engaging address, you are present, you are relevant, your storytelling at the end of your speech is as good as the beginning, and you are paying attention to every, single audience member in some way.

How can you implement these five Springsteen tips in your next presentation?

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. A version of this article first appeared on Spin Sucks.

Topics: PR


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