Public Speaking and Presenting: The 4 Fundamentals

Lady standing with a microphone

Presenting and public speaking are skills  like so many others in our lives which in order to be successful at them there are some fundamental principles we need to acknowledge first. 

I’ve long held the view that it’s the people who understand and apply the core principles of high impact presenting and public speaking who tend to be the ones who climb the career ladder more quickly, make more money, have more fun and even command more respect from just about everyone they connect with.

The exciting thing about that perspective is that when aligned to the belief that it’s a learned skill and not simply a gift a few people are born with it’s far easier to grasp the fact that it’s within each of us to lead each time we speak and reach our highest potential.

The fundamentals

1. The mind

The starting point to making the connection and impact we want is through acknowledging the fact that each time we stand to speak and present we are connecting our mind to the minds of our audience. This awareness extends itself to a great deal more than crafting a presentation which our audience can understand and ‘buy into’ intellectually; they have to feel it emotionally as well.

We all understand the basic premise that it’s our thoughts which drive our feelings, which influence our actions that ultimately produce the results we see in our lives.  With that awareness it’s crucial to understand that if we are to stand any chance of influencing the minds of others we have to understand and manage our own minds first.

2. The wheel

It’s extremely difficult to make an meaningful emotional connection with our audience if our mind is on ‘auto-pilot’.  In other words, if we do what we always do simply because we’ve always done it that way and everyone else does it that way too we are unlikely to stand out from the crowd and make an impact.

Such behaviour when it comes to presenting and speaking in public can leave us resembling a hamster running furiously on his wheel with total passion and energy yet never actually arriving anywhere.  It’s a human affliction which extends itself way beyond the way in which we communicate with each other and in fact insidiously permeates so many areas of our personal lives as well.

It’s something I experienced myself and wrote about a few years ago in my book ‘Hamster to Harmony’.

When it comes to presenting we believe that the one thing that most organisations and professionals have mastered is the ability to deliver the facts:

Features

Benefits

Data

Logical argument

Examples

Case studies

Exhibits & props

That’s the easy part – They have become ‘our wheel’

The greater challenge for most of us is delivering the facts in a way that our audience will not only understand but connect emotionally with and remember too.

To bring the facts to life we need to step out of our comfort zones and:

Tell stories

Use metaphors and anecdotes

Ask thought provoking questions

Create suspense

Shock them

Use humour

Surprise them

I was leading a presentation skills workshop recently for a senior team in a financial services organisation. When I shared the importance of bringing the facts to life through some of these principles the most senior member of the team felt very uncomfortable with the idea. This was his perspective:

“Efforts to liven that up can be counter-productive as we perceive that there is an “expected” manner and a demand for details.”

I understand and respect that viewpoint of course but I also believe that holding on to those limiting thoughts rarely serve our audience well.

3. The value

Most business presentations are boring.

It’s true.

Whilst I’m generalising of course, it’s my belief that the vast majority of professionals do not enjoy attending business presentations and a great number live in dread of them. The reason is, they’ve heard and seen much of it before and they know that most of it they could have read for themselves in an email.

The third principle of high impact presenting is ensuring that you craft and deliver a presentation that delivers tangible value to your audience. Everything you say, show or do needs to be relevant and personal to them and ultimately make a difference to either their professional or personal lives.

If it won’t make a difference and it’s purely an information sharing exercise then I’d encourage you to send them an email instead.If you really feel the need to call people together to present to them then don”t just ‘dump’ the information on them do this instead:

Tell stories

Use metaphors and anecdotes

Ask thought provoking questions

Create suspense

Shock them

Use humour

Surprise them

4.  ‘Head-stuff’

The biggest obstacle we see every day in high impact presenting is what we call ‘head-stuff’.

‘Will they like me?’

‘What if they don’t agree with me’

‘What if I forget my words and freeze’

These are just 3 examples of some of the incessant noise many presenters hear in their minds.

I’ve lost count of the number of people we have coached in our workshops who gave incredible presentations, looked calm and confident yet insisted that they were terrified throughout the whole thing.

The reality is that these negative thoughts and the myriad of other doubts are nothing more than the ego’s need for survival, acceptance and respect.  The highly effective speakers and presenters know and understand that they are speaking from a much higher level and if their attention is solely on their audience and making a difference their ego takes a back seat.

Make it completely about your audience, not yourself.

Losing the ‘head-stuff’  isn’t easy I know, as it is by far most presenters greatest challenge. Believing that we really do have something to say that will help others and make a difference is a great comfort to the mind. Rather than feeling overwhelmed or allowing a constant stream of  negative thoughts to take over our consciousness, be open to the idea that you have a voice and a message which needs to be heard.

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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

 

 

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