Using Music to Energize Corporate Presentations

Executives, by and large, expect your presentation to be boring. It’s why they ask for the exec summaries up front––so if they have to zone off, they’re still covered. So how do you signal to them, right away, that yours is different? One of the easiest ways is also stunningly effective: play music.

Whenever I have music playing when people walk in, it relaxes them, energizes them and opens their minds––exactly what you want at the beginning of your presentation. It’s why every successful retail store and restaurant plays music, and why movies and TV shows play music at key moments. They know it reaches us at a deeper level.

But music can take your presentation even further. It can heighten the impact of your key points, and just like it does for movies and TV, music can captivate your audience and cement your insights and ideas beyond just their heads, to their guts and hearts, so your stakeholders not only understand your message, but want to get behind you.

Knowing what type of music to play depends on the mood you want to evoke. Here are three types of music and the effect they can have:

Open Music

If you’re introducing a new concept or opportunity, “open music” can help them feel that open space, and in turn, open their minds. One of my favorites is Maggie Rogers’ “Alaska.” It starts off slow and easy to let you in, then slowly expands to keep you feeling free. And I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love it.

Hold Music

Hold music “holds” you in place and is perfect for when you want to evoke the stress of, let’s say, things not moving as fast they should. But on the flipside, beautiful, floating hold music can also hold people in place when you want them to slow down and really appreciate a prototype or a design. Arias are perfect hold music, which is why you hear them in luxury car commercials all the time. The music slowly envelops you. I love Bailero (from “Chants D’Auvergne”) sung by Renee Fleming. It’s also a lot of fun to play loud in the car with the windows down.

Propel Music

When you want to rally people toward action, “propel music” is your ticket. These are the anthems you play toward the end of your presentation to create unity and desire. Propel music makes you move and also releases oxytocin, which inspires people to want to be more and do more. One of my favorites is “It’s Your Thing,” by the Isley Brothers.

Ensuring Your Music is a Hit

Because playing music is unconventional in corporations, you want to make sure you get it right and don’t look like you’re putting on a show. Start sparingly––a few times at most––and only when you need it.

Choose music that either closely matches your point or is universally loved. Upbeat, positive, feel-good songs are perfect when people walk in. Michael Jackson, Pharrell and Kool & The Gang will take the dread out of anyone and are rarely polarizing.

If you’re speaking in front of hundreds, stock music sites like enable you to find a song by typing the mood you want in the search bar, and for $49, make sure you’re legal.

Videos are also good way to deliver music because everything is contained in one file, so instead of having to reach for your phone, you can just click your clicker. Music also feels inherently appropriate in videos, so if you’re not sure it will fly in your organization, it’s a good place to start.

But as someone who leads workshops at corporations large and small, conservative, and even regulated, I can tell you the fear of using music is not nearly as warranted as most people think. And the benefits to playing music are so immense and palatable, it’s absolutely worth a try. You’ll see your stakeholders leaning forward, listening, and finally, taking action.

Which, I’ll bet the execs at your company, would take over boredom any day.

Written By Ted Frank

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