Presentation skills habits are easy to find and hard to break. The good ones are available to us all and we don’t have to look too far to find them.
Stephen R. Covey’s book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ contains everything you need to know to achieve extraordinary results. It is a book which has impacted millions of lives across all professions for over 25 years. Its wisdom also extends to any presentation you may be called on to make.
It won’t be long now before we start thinking about taking the decorations down, starting a diet in a few days and face the gloomy prospect of having to soon return to work. As we get back to work in the New Year, we can be certain that it won’t be very long before we are called on once again to present. It may be our monthly update, a team brief or project update as we start the year.
Whatever it is, if you harness the integrity of the ‘7 habits’ your presentation will soar.
HABIT 1: BE PROACTIVE
Don’t believe the myth that great speakers are born that way; highly effective presenting and public speaking is a learned skill. Don’t blame your parents or teachers for not giving you the confidence to speak, don’t say you’re an introvert; do something.
– Watch TED Talks. Presenters at TED follow some compelling precepts. They tell stories, give emotional context, stick to the point, support their message and keep it brief. Here are a few TED Talks I’d recommend you watch:
How to speak so that people want to listen – Julian Treasure
TED’s secret to great public speaking – Chris Anderson
Your body language may shape who you are – Amy Cuddy
How great leaders inspire action – Simon Sinek
Reading won’t make you a great presenter or public speaker but it offers great ideas to boost your confidence. Here are a few books I’d recommend:
To learn how to ride a bicycle but there will always come the point when you need to climb onto it. Public speaking and presenting are exactly the same. Look for opportunities to speak. Don’t shy away from them, go out of your way to look for ways to present your ideas to colleagues and customers.
If the idea of standing up to present at work is a little to daunting to start with then consider joining a group where you can practice speaking in a safe and supportive environment. Toastmasters is an International speaking club which has 16,600 clubs in 143 countries.
If the thought of learning to present in front of others scares the life out of you and you’d rather take a more private approach then get yourself one to one coaching.
HABIT 2: BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND
Stephen Covey presents Habit 2 as a journey of imagination based on the principle that you have to make it clear in your mind first what you want to achieve before you can manifest it.
Presenting your ideas effectively to colleagues, clients or strangers is underpinned by the same principle. In this context, that journey of imagination begins with you sitting quietly long before you even open your laptop to begin building your presentation to ask yourself 2 questions:
- What do you want you want your audience to feel?
Presenting is arguably quite an easy process; most people do it by reading their slides or notes. On its own its not enough and if you are one of those who do so then you will make your audience feel something but it is likely to be bored. Every great presentation is firmly grounded with a clear emotional intent. In other words, when you have finished speaking, how exactly do you want your audience to feel.
Please don’t make the mistake of answering that question with the words ‘informed and engaged’ as we often hear in our presentation training courses, on its own its still not enough. Making your audience feel ‘informed and engaged’ is a prerequisite in any presentation or speech but it lacks emotional impact; there has to be something else.
Here are just a few emotions you may wish to consider:
Keep in mind however that sometimes before you take your audience to the place of feeling something really good, occasionally you need them to feel uncomfortable. If that’s the case then you need to be clear on that too. Do you want them to feel;
- What do you want you want your audience to do?
Beginning with the end in mind means having absolute clarity what it is you want your audience to do with the knowledge, information and insights you share with them. If you don’t know exactly what it is you want them to do when you finish speaking then you can be sure they won’t do anything.
To substantially increase the likelihood of them doing what it is you want them to do you have to make them feel something first.
“When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.” ― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People
HABIT 3: PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST
The first habit presents the idea that if you really want something to happen then the only person who can make it so is yourself. Habit 2 challenges us to accept the reality that we have to be abundantly clear on what that is and to be able to see it in our minds too. I believe that if Stephen Covey were writing these habits with the focus on presentations and presenting, he would say that Habit 3 is about your message. That entails:
– Knowing and understanding your own message first.
– Making sure that everything you say is relevant to and supports your message.
– Knowing exactly why your message is relevant and important to your audience, why they should care about it and what tangible difference it will make to their personal or professional lives.
Putting first things first also means leaving your ego aside and crafting a message and presentation which revolves entirely around your audience. It means that you don’t strive for perfection but instead work diligently to towards making an impact and a difference.
At Mindful Presenter we have a philosophy and passionate belief that ‘connecting is everything’ and that remains at the forefront of all of our work. Its our way of ‘putting first things first’.
Habit 4: Think Win-Win
This is a principle which embraces the idea of thinking and preparing your presentation in a way that is cooperative rather than competitive. Very closely aligned to Habit 3, it encourages us to focus exclusively our audience. It expels the notion of someone winning and someone else losing and urges us to craft a story that brings the presenter and her audience together.
It is a principle of harmony which entails building a relationship with your audience and connecting with them. That means that everything we say must be of value to our audience.
If they don’t win then you certainly won’t.
Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
This is probably my favourite habit because I believe it is the ‘Jewel in the crown’ of the set of 7 habits. After all, what chance do we stand of achieving any level of success if we don’t understand our audience. It is a principle which promotes the idea of listening before we even consider building and delivering our presentation.
I have long held a personal belief that ‘most people don’t listen’. I have felt for some time that many of us do something very different; I call it ‘wait to speak’.
Far too many business presentations today centre around professionals ‘waiting to speak’ In other words, they saturate PowerPoint slides with text, data and bullet points which they can then read to their audience.
The Mindful Presenter seeks to understand their audience first:
– Who are they really?
– How much do they already know?
– What are their values?
– What problems do they have?
– Why should they care about this?
– How do they feel now?
– How do I want them to feel?
As you can see, there are a number of very important questions which need to be asked and answered long before we open our laptops. Once we make the effort to really understand our audience, we increase the likelihood of them understanding us.
Habit 6: Synergize
Most people don’t like sitting quietly and listening to presentations but everyone likes being involved in a good conversation. A great presentation is far more of a conversation than it is someone just standing up speaking whilst running a slide show.
I think Stephen Covey’s wisdom continues to flourish as we consider synergy a vital element of our presentation. It’s about working together to produce meaningful results rather than simply talking at people hoping they see our perspective; we need to see theirs too.
Synergize means developing the habit of approaching every presentation as an opportunity to work closely with our audience. It means creating the time and making the effort to interact with and involve them in our message.
We have to put ourselves in their shoes.
We need to abandon preconceived assumptions and judgments and ask them for their thoughts, opinions and concerns. When a presenter works very closely with an audience, they become a formidable team.
Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
The final habit extols the virtue of growth and harmony. The spoken word has the ability to elicit a powerful effect and to respect and harness that impact we have to make time for ourselves.
It is a habit of self-renewal that promotes the idea that to be the best we can be we have to keep fresh and stay ahead of the game physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. How can we expect to influence and inspire our audience, to lead action and change if we are not in peak condition?
It strikes me that it is possibly the most challenging habit for all of us because it entails most of the things, we know we should be doing anyway but still don’t always do.
– Exercising regularly
– Staying properly hydrated
– Eating healthily
– Cutting out the toxins
– Finding the time and space to sit quietly, breathe and think
– Challenging ourselves personally and professional
– Learning new things
– Having more fun
When our body, minds and emotions are not in as good a shape as they could be, we lose the energy, creativity and confidence to speak with impact.
Sharpening the saw is not only a good habit to end on it’s perhaps one most of us could benefit from enormously (presentations and public speaking aside) awe we begin the new Year.
As we step eagerly into the New Year, Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People shares powerful lessons for personal change which many of us are more open to at this time of year.
Give some thought as to how you can build these potent habits into your presentation and public schedule this year.
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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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