This is how you secure the attention of your audience – with didactic magic!

How to gain and keep the attention of your audience

Whether a PowerPoint presentation is successful depends not only on the content, but also on the way it is presented. Do I succeed in captivating my audience? How do I gain and keep the attention of my audience? Are there any helpful tricks that come in handy? We would now like to introduce you to a presentation technique with which you can literally enchant your audience.

Presenting in a captivating and rousing manner is not magic, but hard work and requires a lot of practice. Or is it magic after all? Gert Schilling is a trainer for lively moderation and presentation seminars. He wrote numerous guides on his special topics. Since his childhood he has been fascinated by magic tricks and today he also uses magic in the didactic context of his lectures and seminars. At the Presentation Bootcamp on November 26 in Frankfurt, Schilling will lead the workshop: Magic for Speakers and Trainers – Didactic Magic. Beforehand, we interviewed him about his special kind of presentation training.

Hello Mr. Schilling. Why should I have magic tricks as a speaker or trainer?
Gert Schilling: As a speaker or trainer, it’s also about using unusual actions to catch the attention of the participants. In magic, things disappear, appear and change. With these effects, you can reinforce your messages and use magical metaphors to visualize your statements in an entertaining way.

Gain and keep the attention of your audience with didactic magic
Photo: © Gert Schilling

Where does your fascination with magic come from?
Gert Schilling: When I was a little boy and someone asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, I said, “A magician. Even then I was fascinated by the possibility of being on stage and performing surprising things.
In the end, I didn’t become a magician, but a trainer and speaker. However, the subject of magic still accompanies me, now in the form of didactic magic that I developed. Presenting well is not magic – or is it?

What made you think that magic could also be used in a didactic context?
Gert Schilling: There is a trick, it’s called the boxing paradox, where something seemingly impossible, something paradoxical happens. In a lecture, paradox can be used as a rhetorical style element, e.g.: “Less is more” or “Firewood rental”. In a seminar I once used the box paradox as an introduction to the topic of rhetorical stylistic devices. This was so well received that I developed the idea of combining content with magical visual effects from it.

Why are entertainment and visualization so important when you want to convey content?
Gert Schilling: The human brain usually “rejoices” when something unexpected or amazing happens and “opens up” to receive information. With this trick I can sneak one or the other content past the “critical” amygdala. I don’t save a seminar or lecture with magic, but you should also have content. However, a suitable effect at the right moment can draw attention and reinforce the message.
And again, use this presentation technique sparingly. One to a maximum of two art pieces per lecture or seminar day. Gladly alternating with other unusual attention grabbers like storytelling, special images or a good dose of humor.

What do you want participants to take away from Presentation Bootcamp 2015?
Gert Schilling: I will not only show the magic tricks to the participants of the Presentation Bootcamp 2015 who attend my workshop, but they will also learn them. And we’ll look together at how the tricks can be integrated into their speaking or seminar work. So participants will get a handful of magic tricks to take back to their own practice.

You can experience Gert Schilling live at the Presentation Rocket Day at the end of November. Sign up now.