Presentation skills and the ability to speak effectively in public is probably the most important skill to develop to enhance your career. In fact, I believe it’s the one thing that most professionals will agree on even if it’s something they find personally daunting.
As unfair as it may sound you can be absolutely certain that you, your team, your product or even your entire organisation will be judged on just how effectively you connect emotionally as well as intellectually with others.
Presenting information clearly and articulately in a way that ensures your message is received and understood is no longer good enough. Given the fact that we live in an information age where professionals are overwhelmed with data, facts, ideas and dare I say ‘noise’ people want and demand so much more.
At Mindful Presenter we begin every single workshop and coaching session by giving our delegates a badge to wear. It’s a bright yellow circular badge with the big black bold letters PMMFS emblazoned on it.
Those letters stand for the immensely powerful words:
Please Make Me Feel Something
Our belief is that whatever your status and experience may be as a presenter, however interesting, complex or dry your topic may be the one thing you can be absolutely certain of is that your audience don’t just want information; they are longing for you to connect with them emotionally too.
The good news is that despite everything we have been taught to believe we each have within our gift everything we could possibly need to make that emotional connection.
Here are the 4 things you need.
1. The mind
Let us start with acknowledging by far the most important gift we each have to present our ideas – the gift of the human mind. After all, whether we are addressing colleagues, clients, suppliers or superiors we are presenting and connecting mind to mind. What excites me about that premise is that scientists and psychologists have been telling us for decades that mind is far more than simply the brain. We now know that mind is an activity in every single cell of our being and when it comes to presenting, that is really important to know.
Each time we speak we have an opportunity to help people to feel something as well as understand our words.
“Two percent of the people think; three percent of the people think they think; and ninety-five percent of the people would rather die than think.” ― George Bernard Shaw
I believe that George Bernard Shaw is suggesting is that thinking is much harder than most of us think it is. From a Mindful Presenting perspective it reinforces exactly what we believe which is that most business presenters craft and deliver their presentations with:
The same mind-set
The same approach
The same templates
The same although ‘tweaked’ data
The same images ( if any)
The same monotone delivery
Mindful Presenting is completely different. We ask questions like:
Who am I as a presenter?
Why am I here presenting anyway, can’t I just send them an email?
What is my message?
What do I want my audience to think?
What do I want my audience to feel?
What do I want my audience to do?
Why should they care?
Why should they respond?
The last thing your mind needs as you embark on a journey to craft a high impact and compelling presentation is for you to switch on your laptop. That one action alone will serve to stifle your imagination and ensure that your presentation looks and sounds exactly the same as everyone else.
Please leave your laptop well alone and switch on your mind instead:
Go for a long walk
Listen to a stimulating piece of music
Talk to yourself
Paint, draw or write a story
In other words do whatever it takes for you to stimulate your mind, step out of your normal routine and to think differently for a short while.
Your job as a presenter is to activate the intellectual faculties of your mind to prepare you to craft a presentation that will capture and hold the undivided attention, interest and curiosity of your audience.
Those intellectual faculties are:
I can promise you that you won’t find these in your laptop but you will find them in abundance in the deep recesses of your mind.
Once you’ve unearthed them you can then begin to build a presentation which in terms of content alone contains everything that your audience could possibly want from you.
Exhibits & props
Thought provoking questions
The big picture
2. The voice
Now you have stimulated and exhausted the mind to create a strategy, plan and content that will ensure you have a clear, powerful and memorable message to deliver it’s time to think about how you say it.
There is no hiding away from the fact that your voice plays a critical role in your success as a speaker and presenter. The fact is, in the same way that our mind contains acres of intellectual gifts so too does our voice. Each of us is carrying around our own symphony orchestra, yet have you noticed how many business presenters speak in such a monotone voice?
Our voice is a like a thermostat which has its own default setting at which it feels most comfortable. Our job as presenters is to challenge and stretch our vocal thermostat to harness the enormous range and power of our voice to captivate and engage our audience.
There are only 3 things you need to do to harness and exploit the power of your voice:
By far the best way to find, value and strengthen the power and range of your voice is to learn from the experts. Sound expert Julian Treasure tells you everything you need to know and do to use that vocal orchestra you have been carrying around with you for so long.
Watch his brilliant TED Talk here:
Your favourite book
Take a couple of random pages from one of your favourite books and spend just a few minutes each week and especially on the run up to a presentation doing this.
Read those paragraphs out loud to yourself in as many different ways that you think of.
Read it with every ounce of passion you have inside you.
Read it as though you are angry.
Read it quietly with frequent pauses.
Read it loud and fast.
Read it as though you were sad.
Read it as though you had just won the lottery.
Play it back
How could you possibly know and understand exactly what you sound like until you have listened to yourself speak in a recording. If you really want to know how you sound to others then record yourself often and play it back to yourself listening very carefully.
Put yourself in your audiences shoes and be honest with yourself about what you hear and how you feel about the way you sound.
3. The body
High impact presenting and public speaking doesn’t begin and end with simply having great content delivered in a way that is vocally engaging.
You also have to move.
Be very wary of the presentation coach who tells you not to move and to keep still at all times. Movement represents energy and visual stimulation and when used purposefully is a gift to your audience.
The most important visual element you can show your audience is not your PowerPoint slides, it’s you.
If you are speaking about the future step into the future, if you refer to the past take a step back into the past. If you are sharing three key messages take your audience to each message in three separate steps.
Our hands offer a great deal in helping us to animate our message, express it with feeling and give congruence to our words. At Mindful Presenter we simply encourage our clients to ‘take the hand cuffs off’ and set them free. That mean’s taking them out of your pockets, from behind your back and unclasping them. Your hands know exactly what to do once you’ve set them free.
If you are talking about something that is big then make it look big with your hands, if its small make it small.
Have you ever sat through a presentation to hear the speaker say how passionate they were about their topic yet their face did not exude an ounce of passion. If your facial expressions don’t match the words that leave your mouth then you can be certain that your audience will believe your face before they accept your words.
If you are not naturally expressive with your face when you speak then practice speaking in front of a mirror and challenge your face to match your words.
Your job as a presenter or speaker is to ‘own the stage’. That means you have to make your audience aware that the platform is yours and that you will exude confidence by using it to suit you. If you need an example of how to ‘own the stage’ I can’t think of a better one than Dalton Sherman’s key note speech to over 20000 teachers at a conference in Dallas, Texas.
Please keep in mind that Dalton is a 9 year old boy.
Watch it here:
4. The spirit
It’s not easy being a high impact presenter and public speaker, there is so much to do. You have to use your mind in a way that you may have never used it before and speak and move in a way that you also find challenging.
It gets harder.
One of the greatest challenges business presenters face is actually being in the room. They may be in the room physically but their mind and spirit is often in a completely different place. That other place often involves a personal interrogation in the quiet of your own mind:
Will they like me?
What if I freeze?
What if they ask me question I can’t answer?
Maybe they will know more than me on the topic?
I hope the technology works
I’m not sure about my slides
Far too many presentations are crafted and delivered from the perspective of the human ego which insists on showing our audience how clever we are, how much we know and how hard we work.
The Mindful Presenter makes it her priority to be in the room completely with her audience. Everything they plan to say, show or do is designed to make a tangible difference to their audience’s personal or professional lives and they know that the only way they can achieve that goal is to be present at every moment.
They don’t ask incessant questions.
They don’t make assumptions.
They don’t make judgements.
They don’t make it about how well they perform.
They give their audience the gift of the human spirit and open up a conversation rather than a lecture.
I really hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please feel free to share it through your preferred social media channels below and subscribe to our mailing list so you won’t miss any future posts.
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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