Boring to Bravo: Proven Techniques to Engage, Involve & Inspire

By December 2, 2010March 30th, 2020Book Reviews

Over the past 18 months, I’ve noticed ever-increasing interest among clients who ask, “How can I involve my listeners? What do I need to do to be more engaging?”

Even speakers who traditionally value the one-way, dyadic style of presenting are wondering, “How do I go from a boring monologue to an engaging and interactive dialogue?”

Lately, I’ve been steering them to my new must-read — Boring to Bravo: Proven Presentation Techniques to Engage, Involve and Inspire Your Audience to Action. The latest release by current NSA president Kristin Arnold, Boring to Bravo is a compendium of techniques (90, to be exact) that you can use to reinvigorate your next presentation.

As a high-stakes meeting facilitator, Arnold approaches every presentation assuming there will be automatically be engagement or interaction. Leveraging her firsthand experience, she effectively dispels presenters’ apprehension as she introduces creative and energizing ways to involve and inspire your audience.

Engagement: The name of the game

Why are today’s listeners different from those in the past? Arnold explains that audiences previously were content with being polite listeners, conditioned by their years of experience doing exactly that in school. Today, expectations are much higher thanks to our immersion in near-constant forms of entertainment — from 24/7 cable programming to smart phone technology and eye-popping special effects in movies. If you want to be remembered, to inspire your audience, you have to be willing to reach out, interact with them, and have meaningful conversations within the framework of your presentation.

Better results combining the old and the new

The universal appeal of Boring to Bravo cannot be understated. Seasoned speakers, trainers, and facilitators will reunite with techniques that are long-lost friends, while also being introduced to new ways to take their efforts from “boring to bravo.” And less experienced speakers will find easy and fun ways to punch up a presentation.

Arnold delivers her wisdom in an at-a-glance style that reinforces the book’s value as a reference tool. One technique that caught my attention is the author’s Risk Rating System, which assigns exclamation points to the relative riskiness of common engagement techniques from low (!) to high (!!!!!). For example:

  • Preparing your handout, workbooks, or takeaways is a risk factor of one (!)
  • Taking questions during your presentation is a mid-level risk (!!!)
  • Telling jokes is highly risky (!!!!!), and was the only technique achieving that rating

Though Arnold’s criteria may seem a bit arbitrary — she doesn’t give details on the difference between each rating level — the rating system is highly useful nonetheless, especially to the risk-averse.

So if you’ve ever wondered how to make eye contact with an audience of thousands, the eight ways for conducting an audience poll, or when it’s perfectly appropriate to bribe audience members, flip through the pages of Boring to Bravo. It’ll quickly have you cheering “Bravo!” and eagerly awaiting Arnold’s next book.