The internet is full of presentation tips focused on helping professionals to get rid of bad habits yet in our experience at Mindful Presenter many of them overlook the presenters greatest enemy, ‘waffling’.
Reading slides, reciting bullet points, fidgeting and incessant ‘umming’ and ‘erring’ are amongst the top bad habits we see each week in our presentation skills workshops and coaching sessions. The number 1 spot though is always proudly taken by the same menace – waffling.
If you haven’t come across the term before waffling in a presentation is speaking excessively about something trivial without adding to your overall message.
It’s painful enough having to experience it in the audience but just imagine how destructive it feels to the speaker who suffers from the affliction of and doesn’t know how to fix it.
If it’s a personal torment of yours then here’s what we suggest you do to speak with clarity and purpose; the opposite of waffling.
1. Get an ‘M’ Point?
Most presenters begin to craft their presentations with the question ‘What am I going to say?’
That’s always the wrong first question!
In an earlier article, ‘The M point of mindful presenting’, we advised presenters to focus instead on the question ‘What result do I really want from this presentation?’ to find their M point.
‘The M point is the place you really want your audience to be the moment you finish speaking. Focus on it allows you to switch off ‘autopilot’ and become a highly conscious change agent. Let’s face it, your M point is always to change something; It could be a mindset, an understanding, a level of knowledge or clarity, a belief, an opinion, a behaviour, a decision, an action or simply a perspective.
On the journey through change your M point is what you really want your audience to do when you’re done speaking:
Approve my budget for the new project
Sign off my proposal
Buy my product/service
Recommend me to their clients
Ask for more information about the initiative
Ask for a proposal
Or it could simply be to understand, accept or change a view and act on that new position.
Once you have absolute clarity of your ‘M’ point the next step to ensure you radically reduce the likelihood of you waffling is to have a simple, robust and powerful structure to help you to get there.’
The M point is your moment of truth its where you begin the journey of mindful presenting.
2. If you build it he will remember
That’s my adaptation of the famous quote from the classic film ‘Field of Dreams’: ‘If you build it, he will come.’ I’ve amended it slightly to remind presenters that the antidote to waffling and the precursor to ensuring your audience remembers what you a say is structure. Building the right structure will also ensure you achieve your ‘M’ point.
Imagine this; you’ve just walked into your place of work and before you’ve even taken your coat off your boss says,’ don’t bother taking your coat off I’ve decided we are all going out for the day.’
After you’ve recovered from the shock the likelihood is that the very next thing you will do is to ask her 3 questions:
Where are we going?
Why are we going there?
How are we going to get there?
Now think about the last presentation you gave. Isn’t it likely that these were the 3 very first questions on your audiences mind?
That’s the foundation for your structure and building everything you say around the following 6 pillars will ensure you never waffle again.
– Open with a bang
– Tell them your key message
– Tell them why your message is not only relevant but important to them
– Tell them exactly how you can help them and give them examples
– Tell them what you want them to do now.
– Close with a bang
3. Take a walk
I live adjacent to an aerodrome which many years ago served as a highly functional RAF base. The circumference of the aerodrome is 1.7 miles and it’s open to the public to cycle around, walk their dogs or of course simply meander.
Once I’ve crafted a presentation using the above structure I walk that 1.7 miles several times with my notes. I call it rehearsal time but it’s not rehearsal in the form of studying, memorising and repeatedly reading my notes. It’s different.
Whether the sun is beaming down or it’s pouring with rain I walk and talk myself through my message, the supporting key points and the way I need to express them. Of course I get a few strange stares from cyclists and the odd wink from a dog or two but I keep walking and talking.
A walk may not work for you. Perhaps you’d prefer to sit under a tree or stand in front of a mirror but try to find the time, space and environment that is right for you to help you to rehearse and focus on your message.
During our coaching sessions people often tell me they simply don’t have time to rehearse. My response is always the same; you don’t have time not to.
In our experience most people waffle while presenting for one or more of the following reasons:
– They simply aren’t crystal clear what their ‘M’ point and message is
– They haven’t prepared well enough
– They haven’t rehearsed in the right way
– They’ve made notes but they’re not focused and structured
– They’re just nervous
– They forget to pause and breathe inbetween sentences
Following these 3 tips will radically ensure you increase your chance of connecting with confidence, clarity and impact and put the waffling behind you for good.
Whatever you do don’t forget to take the time to slow down, breathe and pause every now and then to give yourself and your audience time to think.
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If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and presentation coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.
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