Do you remember anything the speakers said at your high school graduation? Or even who the speakers were?
I don’t. As a matter of fact, I can’t tell you anything about any of the many graduation ceremonies I’ve been to over the years except for the fact that I was overheated and anxious about getting sunburned at a lot of them.
Chances are you’d remember if the speaker told you and all of your classmates “None of you is special. You are not special. None of you is exceptional,” as Wellesley High School English teacher David McCullough did in his speech. Of course his point wasn’t to dishearten these poor kids, but to remind them of the virtues of selflessness. And they’re much more likely to remember his advice than they would have been if he had just given the standard uplifting talk meant to inspire young people.
You can read more about his speech here.
Let’s face it, your presentations and meetings are probably much, much, less memorable than the average commencement speech. One of the best ways to change this and make an impact on your audience is to do something unexpected–like tell them they aren’t as special as they think they are. Next time you have an important presentation to give, think about what you can do to surprise them or challenge their assumptions. It’s a riskier strategy than having another boring, forgettable meeting, but the payoff can be huge.