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Surprise your audience as Toronto surprised me

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A visit to Toronto is the source of today’s presentation tip. A city? Who inspires a presentation tip? It sounds strange. But that’s exactly what happened. Here’s how.

I went to Toronto last November to do a training course at Laurentian Bank. Since the training is in the afternoon, I plan a two-way trip in the same day.

My flight lands at Billy Bishop Airport. This airport is unique in that it is located on an island in Lake Ontario about 150 metres from downtown Toronto.

I set foot on the ground around 8:30. Since my training is at 1:00 p.m., that the Laurentian Bank building is barely 3 km away and the sun is beautiful, I decide to walk. I like to walk.

I’ve been to Toronto before. But, always via the other airport which is located outside the city. I think I know the city. But this first landing at Billy Bishop will change my vision.

Coming out of the tunnel under the lake that connects the airport and the city, I turn right to follow the waterfront and possibly find a coffee shop. Working in a coffee shop in a city I visit is a pleasure that I enjoy.

As I walk, I admire the landscape that offers itself to me. And that’s when I had the revelation.

When we think of Toronto, we think of skyscrapers, a dense downtown and, above all, the CN tower and the Rogers Center. As a matter of fact, this is the vision I used to announce my first conference in Toronto a few years ago.

Photo du paysage urbain de Toronto

But on this autumn morning, Toronto turned out to be a bucolic place that I had never imagined. Toronto is bordered by Lake Ontario. And the view of the lake is magnificent, aquatic, maritime. It has nothing to do with the urban landscape that comes to mind when you think of Toronto. Seduced by this landscape, I took the picture below.

Voilier au port de Toronto - Denis François Gravel

Suddenly I feel like Toronto is a seaside city. I feel like I’m in a port on the Atlantic coast. I know, I know. It’s a lake. It’s not the ocean. But I have that ocean feeling.

In front of me is the maritime landscape and behind me are the skyscrapers. It’s a strange feeling.

This new vision of Toronto makes me curious, opens up my senses and makes me want to be even more attentive to what I see and what I might discover.

For my happiness, right next to the sailboat, there is a café where I sit down to work and think about what I have just felt on the dock. I sip my coffee and admire the view of the sailboat alongside the wharf.

I thought I knew Toronto, and Toronto surprised me. It incited me to come out of my bubble, to open up my senses and to be receptive.

Our challenge as presenters is similar. We must urge people to come out of their bubbles, their heads, their concerns and be receptive to our message.

I knew that the surprise effect is a known and effective tool to achieve this goal and I use it regularly. The purple and orange balloons I use in my presentations and lectures are a good example. But the experience in Toronto reminded me of how powerful it was to provoke receptivity.

And now, sitting in that coffee shop, I’m wondering. How many times have I made presentations in which the audience could easily predict the outcome? How many times have I witnessed dull, predictable, unsurprising presentations in which my thoughts were elsewhere?

Conversely, how many times have I surprised my audience and provoked more intense attention? Whether it is with the use of my famous balloons, inspiring anecdotes or others? Did I take full advantage of the potential of this presentation tip?

The surprise effect had a special place in my toolbox. I believe that it will now have to occupy a prominent place.

What about you? What place does the surprise effect occupy in your presentation toolbox?

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