Don’t just present, make a few waves too

wave of colours

If you are called on to present soon, take a moment to ponder on the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘Waves are inspiring not because they rise and fall, but because each time they fall they never fail to rise again.’

When it comes to presenting our ideas with clarity, confidence and impact, many of us know how it feels to fall. Our challenge is to be like the ocean wave and never give up rising.

Having just returned from miles of unspoiled white-sand beaches, sunshine and sea, I’ve been thinking about ocean waves a fair bit.

Many of the world’s most beautiful sonnets, powerful stories and tales of love, lessons and loss, emanated from our ocean waves.

They are a part of who we are

Watching the rise and fall of the elegant mid-Atlantic Ocean waves has heightened my belief that we need to start make a few more alluring waves when we present.

How do you make waves when you present?

Before we jump straight to the wave enhancers, its worth looking closely at the wave inhibitors. Wave inhibitors are the presentation elements that stifle impact and fuel mediocrity.

Wave inhibitors

Presenting someone else’s content

It’s a challenge the best of us face from time to time.

If you present someone else’s content that you had no part in creating, don’t fully understand and perhaps don’t believe in, you will likely drown your audience.

Just before you shout out, ‘yes but’ and tell me that I don’t understand your boss or the culture you work in, I promise you I do. I have been there myself.

If you are called on to present someone elses content, you have one of two choices to make:

– You push back and say that you won’t do it; mindfully explaining why.

– If that isn’t possible or appropriate, you insist that you rebuild or reposition the content in a way that works for you.

Ignoring these options and simply doing it as instructed, you are doing both yourself and your audience a huge disservice. If the person who has created the material for you to present, insists that you give the presentation exactly as handed to you, run for the hills. That suggests that they may have a disregard for both you and your audience.

– Doing what you always do

In organisations across the world, every day you will find professionals who regularly have to attend the same weekly, monthly and quarterly presentation forums. In many of these forums you will see:

– The same people sitting in exactly the same seats, saying the same things in the same way every time.

– Slides saturated with data, bullet points and even spreadsheets.

– Professionals reading those slides to fellow professionals.

If you do what you always do and what everyone else does, you will get the same result that you and others always get. If those results are outstanding, then by all means continue. When they serve purely to maintain the status quo and create a business environment of apathy, it’s time to make waves.

– Making it all about you

It’s human nature for all of us to want to look good, connect with others and be liked. There is nothing wrong with that.

It only becomes a significant issue when it becomes the essence of our presentation. In other words, where our primary agenda is to show our audience how clever we are, how much we know and how hard we work.

When we craft and deliver a presentation which revolves around us rather than our audience, we can guarantee that our audience will remember us but for all of the wrong reasons.

The waves we need to create are ones in which our audience can surf in, rather than for us as presenters to parade on.

Wave enhancers

Find out what kind of fish they are

Please excuse the continued oceanic analogy. Would you approach a shark in the same way you would a salmon, or a dolphin in the same manner as a dart-fish.

Your audience aren’t fish of course but you know what I mean. My point is that every audience is different.

To create waves when you present, you have to begin think like your audience do

– Who are these people?

– What do they care about?

– What do they want and need?

– How do I want them to feel?

– What do I want them to do?

If you were sitting in their seats what would it take to get and keep your attention, interest and curiosity.

Once you’ve gained some real insight into who your audience truly are

– Give them everything you have: your energy, passion, focus and creativity.

– Start out with the intention of creating tangible value for them.

– Set out to change something for them, whether it’s their minds, attitudes, beliefs or understanding.

A presentation that doesn’t seek to make change is a waste of time and energy.” Seth Godin

Invite them to play

Your audience won’t enjoy, engage or interact with you if you simply talk at them and read slides. They need to go on the journey with you, to surf the wave and experience the ride.

Involve your audience the moment you begin to present.

– Ask them questions

– Challenge their thinking

– Help them to see pictures in their minds

– Give them examples

– Tell them stories

– Dare to ask their opinions

– Be playful and have some fun with them

– Go for the heart

Don’t forget, whether you are presenting to the CEO or  the customer service team, we all have a heart as well as a brain. Unfortunately, many business presenters focus exclusively on intellectual understanding at the expense of achieving an emotional connection.

Your audience want the facts, they want the data, research and evidence. Most want it delivered in a way that is going to make them feel something on an emotional level too.

– Give your audience emotional as well as intellectual insights as to how you really feel about the topic.

– Keep it real by using humour, compassion and empathy. Forget your business title or position in the company; get them to relate to you as you. Show them your personality, not the ‘corporate spokesperson’.

– Look for opportunities to connect with your audience emotionally.

It could be a:

– Shock

– Surprise

– Bold fact or statement

– An image or a video.

– Story

– Prop or piece of music

Whatever it is, make sure that it supports and highlights the significance of the point you are making.

Ocean waves stabilize climate temperatures, increase biodiversity and increase the adaptability and strength of creatures. They even create the very beaches we enjoy.

We need waves

We need them in our business presentations too.

The climate of business presenting will decline rapidly and severely without waves. The next time you are called on to present, think about how you can create a few waves.

If you need help creating waves when you present:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

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