Mindful presenting holds the key to high impact public speaking and presenting. At the very heart of mindful presenting is the word ‘respect’. Presenting is one of the greatest privileges any of us could experience. When you pause for a moment to consider the most precious resource we all have, it is of course time. Each time we present we are using peoples most valuable asset. We live in such a fast-paced world with so many demands on our time that we scarcely find moments to value the minutes that pass us by so furiously.
It’s no wonder than one of the greatest sources of anxiety is our fear of wasting our audience’s time. Regardless of the health of our individual level of self-worth, we all inherently know that no one has time to listen to us unless we have something worthwhile to say. That’s often why so many presenters speak so quickly telling their audience everything they know rather than what their audience actually need to know.
Most articles on presenting and public speaking will tell you that every presentation has to have 3 parts; a beginning, middle and end. Personally, I find the obviousness of such a simple truth annoying. What I believe they should say is that respect is the most important part; it’s the vital ingredient for presentation success.
Mindful Presenting provides the platform for respect by coaching professionals in the following 9 principles:
A couple of years ago I spent a sizable sum of money to attend a full day conference organised by one of the most established networking organisations in London. Their promise was to show me how to ‘harness technology for business growth’. I spent the entire day listening to some of the biggest and most successful brands in the world tell me how fabulous they were.
I was already a customer of most of the them and I learned nothing aligned to their promise.
Respecting our audience means that we have to leave our egos at home and not use their time to tell them how much we know and how great we are. Our job is to tell them how we can help them and how what we have to say will make a difference to their professional or personal lives.
Respect means doing whatever it takes in advance to learn as much as you possibly can about your audience before you even begin to think about your presentation.
Don’t make assumptions that what you have to say will be of interest or value to them. Ask them.
Phone them or send them an email telling them what you have in mind and ask them how helpful that would be. But more importantly, ask what they want, need and expect from you.
I used to have a boss who was always generous in telling me what a good presenter I was but how what I presented wasn’t what he wanted. My polite response was that I wasn’t a mind reader. How could he possibly expect me to know what he wanted? After that conversation he told me in advance what he wanted and expected. I learned from my own mistake and now I always ask.
I once created for myself the very unfortunate and unintentional situation of upsetting a delegate on one of our workshops. During the section where we were discussing and exploring bad habits she told me what her bad habit was.
‘I don’t prepare’
I replied saying, ‘I don’t think that’s a bad habit.
She smiled thinking that all was well.
I then went on to say that ‘I think it’s more of a bad attitude’.
I went on the stress that I was only being serious if she was. I explained that if she genuinely didn’t prepare then she was disrespecting her audience and had no right to present to them.
We have to prepare. No exceptions.
The old saying ‘practice makes perfect’ is a little misleading. You can practice something exhaustively but that doesn’t necessarily make you good at it. We owe it to our audience when presenting to practice our presentation on a whole new level.
– Knowing our message and the key supporting points.
– The verbal expression of our message. How do we actually sound when we express it vocally; what works and what doesn’t work.
– The non-verbal expression of our message. How do we look, how do we stand, how much eye contact do we make, how do we gesture?
I don’t really know anyone who likes sitting through business presentations. Most of them are similar and many are boring. Everyone I know (myself included) likes a good conversation.
Don’t be the one who is doing all of the talking.
Ask them questions and give them time to respond. Challenge and stimulate their thinking by crafting a conversation rather than a lecture.
Don’t overwhelm them with data. They don’t need it all, won’t remember it and won’t thank you for it. Imagine you are are panning your data for gold and give them only the big shiny nuggets.
By far the most disrespectful thing you can do to your audience is to insult their intelligence by reading your slides to them. The moment you do so you are telling them that they can’t read. If you insist on ignoring this advice then be aware that despite what we have been led to believe, your audience can’t read and listen to you at the same time; not effectively anyway.
Use images, make them clear, creative and compelling.
Stick to one idea per slide, make it bold, make it relevant and make it matter.
Mindful presenting extends way beyond simply presenting. After all, anyone can present with varying levels of confidence and clarity. Millions of us are doing it every single day in businesses all over the world. Our greatest challenge and the mistake many professionals make is not being explicitly clear in our own minds how we want our audience to feel.
The greatest way to connect with your audience is to help them to feel something. The very first thing we have to do is to decide exactly what we want our audience to feel when we have finished speaking.
Have you ever sat through a business presentation and left the room not knowing exactly what the presenter wants you to do with all of that information they just shared with you?
It doesn’t matter how rich your content is, how stunning your slides are or how compelling your message is. You have to tell your audience what you want them to do next. Don’t leave them guessing.
The only thing your audience want from you is to connect with you and your message.
Connecting really is everything and the way to do so is by treating your audience with the utmost respect. As you set about doing so make sure you:
– Make eye contact
– Be honest
– Be open
– Tell them stories
– Be authentic
– Be passionate
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If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about mindful presenting and 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: istockphoto.com