EYN#027 - How I Make Dull Topics Exciting

Mar 25, 2024
Energy level graph shows declining line of energy with regular injections of energy

Read Time: 3 mins

Let's be honest, there are some pretty boring topics in tech. That doesn't mean they're not important, but it means they're pretty dry to talk about, and pretty dull to listen to.

So how do you make a dry subject engaging? I spent years training people on a command line interface. The product didn't even have a graphical front end. I did some hard yards on this topic.

Here's the tools in in my kitbag.


Start With Why

If you're bothering to tell people about this thing there must be a reason why. What is that reason? Make it very clear to people why this topic is so important. What is the impact of using this? What outcome will it have? Why will their lives be forever better once they know this?

If there isn't a good Why, why are you bothering?

Spend some time thinking how you bring the Why alive to people. If they're motivated by the Why, the energy will carry them through some of the dry bits.


Create Bite Size Chunks

2 hours of wandering monotony is a recipe for disaster. Break down the topic into 20 minute chunks. The structure helps people focus on the complete chunk and let's them know an ending is coming soon. It also gives you a natural point to re-energise everyone.

Tell Engaging Stories

Use short fun stories to make the content interesting and relevant. Get creative. Share anecdotes of disasters of the past. Or compare your solution to something from the latest blockbuster movie. Or use an absurd metaphor featuring water melons and field mice.

Humans like stories, so use them.

Take Breaks

Short regular breaks lift energy levels. A 3 hour session with no breaks "Because we have so much to cover" is ridiculous. Less is more.

2.5 hours with 30 mins of breaks distributed throughout is a far more effective use of time.


Engaging Visuals

Reject the death by PowerPoint culture. Banish your wordy bullet points. Use pictures. Use white boards. Turn the screen off and just talk. Share Demos of real life examples.

Remember your visual aids are not your notes.


Energy Level Graph

Even if you're audience are motivated by the Why, it's still a dry topic. So keep the energy level graph in mind. Use the tools in this post at regular intervals to give them a hit of energy and avoid the Snoring Zone. Grab something from the kit bag and use it.

Combine The Tools

Chain these tools together, to create an engaging session.

  • Create a 20 min Bite Size Chunk
  • Share Why this chunk is important
  • Tell an engaging story about the topic
  • Use engaging visuals whilst you share the depth and substance
  • Take a break
  • Do it again with the next chunk.


Use these tools and you'll rarely have the audience in the snoring zone.


Hope this helps



Whenever you're ready, there are 3 ways I can help you:

  • Podcast:  The latest episode is "Be A Person Not A Personal Brand" with Scott Hanselman.  Check it out on the Elevated You website or on  Apple, Spotify and Google Podcasts.
  • Technical Storytelling Essentials: Accelerate your career, increase your impact and influence people.  Affordably priced, world-class course digital course for individuals.
  • Technical Storytelling for Organisations: Programs designed to increase the impact of your team.  Inspire, develop and motivate your team to influence key stakeholders and generate action with your customers.