Set aside the violence, the snarky humor and the profanity in Deadpool 2, and look for this surprisingly compelling technique Deadpool uses to connect with the movie-going audience. Those comments the superhero directs straight to you – and not the other actors – is an acting technique called “Breaking the Fourth Wall.” And it can be used for great effect in presentations, meetings, speeches – any time you need to grab your audience’s attention. And you don’t even need super-powers to do it!
Breaking the Fourth Wall with your Audience
During a performance, an actor typically places an imaginary wall (the Fourth wall) between himself and the audience, going about his business on stage or on camera with the audience acting as passive observers. That distance is fine for drama, but it’s detrimental if you want to move your audience — your prospects — to take action at the end of your presentation.
The movie business too has found that breaking the fourth wall, like Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool, Woody Allen in Annie Hall, or Matthew Broderick in Ferris Buehler’s Day Off, is also effective in heightening attention and pulling the audience into the story.
Want to be a superhero in your presentation? Break the Fourth wall like Deadpool and turn your passive audience into a highly engaged audience more likely to respond and act upon your message.
How to be a Superhero in your Presentation:
Get out of your comfort zone.
Most presenters stay in the safety of their comfort zone – right behind their laptop, podium, or table. That zone may be comfortable, but it can be a barrier between you and your customer. To physically break the fourth wall close some of the gap between you and your audience. This can create a more intimate experience and heighten attention. Note: Of course you don’t want to cross into a prospect’s personal space or disrespect cultural boundaries.
Speak “TO” your audience, not “AT” them.
Presenting or acting is not a recitation of your lines. It’s transferring meaning and emotion to your audience to make them want to take action. That subtle shift can make all the difference in the world to how your audience responds to you. While Deadpool’s asides are sarcastic and often profane, he is masterful at making each audience member feel like they’re engaged in a one-on-one conversation with him. To achieve that same effect, you can’t read from your slides, stare at your screen, or look over your prospect’s heads. Focus on looking one person in the eye at a time as you speak. (Don’t get creepy on me! Look long enough to finish your thought, then move on. )
It’s a fact that people perk up when they hear their name mentioned. Be careful not to overuse this however as it can backfire and start to feel very canned, for example: “Thanks for having us here Jan. Jan, you mentioned you were looking for a solution to your reporting challenges, so Jan…” Ugh!
Physically involve your audience
Think of ways to get your audience actively involved in your presentation. If it’s a group, ask one member to introduce you, another to write down questions or suggestions, and another to pass out handouts. If it’s one person, allow him/her to choose topics or navigate your tablet.
Want to be a superhero in your presentation? Break the fourth wall and make your audience feel like they are active participants rather than passive observers in your presentation.
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