We’ve talked a lot so far in this series ‘The Art and Science of Presenting’ about creating and having a meaningful conversation as opposed to simply presenting your thoughts and ideas.
When you reflect on the conversations you’ve enjoyed and remembered the most it’s likely you’ll find that it’s those conversations in which you felt entirely comfortable with the mood and atmosphere that was set even before you walked into the room and sat down.
At Mindful Presenter our training workshops are more than training courses, they are actually presentations too. We believe that one of the best ways to teach presentation skills is to lead by example and so that’s exactly what we do, we teach our delegates to present by presenting ourselves.
The mood is set well before you meet your audience
Long before we meet our delegates we set the tone for our workshops by doing a number of things:
– We send them an online skills profile questionnaire which enables us to get to know their background, experience, strengths, objectives and aspirations.
– We then arrange to call them and have a chat over the telephone before we meet. We introduce ourselves, tell them a little about our background, what they can expect on the day and we get to know a little about them personally and answer any questions they may have.
– We follow up the call with an email which includes an overview of what we will be doing on the day with an invitation to contact us if they would like to know more before we meet.
The tone is set well before we even shake hands, our delegates know that we are friendly, approachable, supportive and that we are very interested in them. They know that we care and want to do everything we can to ensure that the training experience is going to be just perfect for them so that they take the most they can from the day.
When we meet we already feel as though we know each other.
I recognize of course that we are fortunate in that we have their names, email addresses and telephone numbers to enable us to establish contact and begin the process of building rapport. Most business presentations aren’t necessarily afforded that gift; however, there is still plenty you can do.
Decide in advance exactly what mood you want to create for your audience before, during and even long after your presentation.
How do you want them to feel?
– Send them a personal and carefully worded invitation, welcome by email or hard copy, setting out the purpose of the presentation, what they can expect and what you hope to deliver.
– Make sure your subject line is explicit and be very clear about what your audience will get out of the conversation.
– Extend the invitation to contact you before you meet either by phone or email with any questions.
Prepare your pre-presentation communication as carefully and as thoroughly as you intend to for the presentation itself.
Whether you will be presenting for 20 minutes or 2 hours do your very best in advance to ensure that the venue you will be speaking in supports the atmosphere and mood you have chosen to set. That means looking carefully at the lighting, seating arrangements, air conditioning, colour, props and audio/visuals.
If possible always cater for refreshments as that always goes a long way to helping people to feel welcome and relaxed.
You may be the world’s most inspirational speaker presenting powerful content but whether you like it or not people will still judge you based on your appearance and that can contribute to the mood too.
At Mindful Presenter we like to dress to ‘match’ our audience, in other words if they wear suits so do we, if they dress casually then we do too. Our intention is to simply get them to feel as though we are one of them, no more or less important, because of course, we are not.
The tone of your presentation of course crucially extends to and remains with you personally from the very moment you begin to speak. Your vocal tone, body language, expressions and movement need to be completely congruent with the atmosphere you have chosen to set. Will it be passionate, humble, serious, light hearted, personal, motivational, authoritative, urgent, etc.?
If you don’t decide then they will do so for you.
Setting an engaging and captivating tone during the opening of your presentation is not only the key to grabbing the attention of your audience right from the start but setting the mood for the entire conversation, including whether you are likely to be interesting or not.
If you want to set a tone which suggests you are about to bore your audience to tears then try opening with ‘Today I would like to talk about . . .’
It takes effort, imagination and a little creativity to come up with a powerful opening to set the mood for a presentation but it’s worth every moment and ounce of energy and your audience will thank you for it.
Once you’ve decided on the tone you wish to open with then consider opening by:
Asking a question
Telling a story
Sharing a relevant quotation
Using s powerful visual
Beginning with a fascinating statistic
Making a provocative statement
Sharing an experience
Revealing some research
Passing a prop around
It fascinates me how often I see speakers lose their personality as they take to the podium and suddenly transform into the corporate spokes- person.
Your audience wants nothing more than for you to be sincere, honest, open and transparent.
Being professional, smart and articulate in your field is great but it doesn’t have to come at a price, the price of losing yourself for the corporate speak.
At Mindful Presenter our tag line is ‘connecting is everything’ and we know that the only way to truly connect with people is to help them to feel something. The Mindful Presenter is very conscious of the way they want their audience to feel before, during and after their presentation and they prepare and deliver their conversation with that at the forefront of their mind.
However important or strong your message is you can be certain it’s the mood that you create in presenting it that will decide whether it’s acted upon.
Watch out for Episode 9 of The Art and Science of Presenting where we will continue to look at delivering your presentation.
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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.
Image: Courtesy of flickr.com