I’ve only just realised that a personal development book I wrote over a decade ago is also full of presentation skills tips.
The year 2006 was a big one for me, it was the year I decided to sit down and write down my thoughts on what I believed truly mattered.
Three years later those thoughts turned into, ‘Hamster to Harmony’.
It has since become my personal guide for every aspect of my life
Today as the founder of Mindful Presenter, I realise that the words I wrote all of those years ago could just as readily apply to public speaking and presentation skills.
Here are a few presentation skills tips from the book ‘Hamster to Harmony:’
Chapter 1: Guidance from a Hamster
“I remember asking myself and anyone who would listen to me the same question over and over again. The question was this: ‘How do some people get to be so lucky?’”
‘Luck’ seemed to be what I searched so hard for when I was a small boy.
The question I should have been asking was, ‘How do some people get to be successful?’
Many people think that great public speakers are born with the gift of being able to speak eloquently with power and impact.
Of course, deep down we all know that’s not true.
If you aspire to be a great presenter the only question you need to ask and then study is:
‘What does it take to be a great speaker?’
To help you on your journey you don’t need the guidance of a hamster as I did. You just need a good presentation skills coach.
Chapter 2: Stop your wheel
‘To stop your wheel you must decide to stop sleepwalking your way through life. To stop, stand back and take a long hard look at who you are and where you are.’
Millions of presentations are given in businesses across the world every single day.
Many of them aren’t as rich and inspiring as the could be. That’s often because professionals are so busy being busy, it’s far easier to do what they always do and what everyone else does.
To begin to answer the question, ‘What does it take to be a great speaker?’ you have to ‘stop your wheel’.
In other words, stop doing what you’ve always done. Get some open and honest feedback as to what works for you today as a presenter. Find out what doesn’t work so well too.
If you keep doing what you’ve always done you will keep getting the same results.
Chapter 3: Wake up
‘Ask the real you what’s missing and what if anything is in your way. Take a few minutes to do this with each area of your life.’
It’s only when you’ve stopped your wheel that you find yourself truly awake enough to ask yourself, what’s missing?
It’s the same when it comes to presenting
When we ‘wake up’ and take a long, hard and honest look at the way we communicate with others we get to see, how we:
– Use our voice
– Gesture and move our bodies
– Make eye contact
– Tell stories
When we ‘wake up’, we learn just how:
– Creative we are
– Passionate we are
– Well we connect with our audience
– We make people feel when we present
Chapter 4: Ask yourself 3 questions
‘The challenge is to be brutally honest with yourself on all three questions’
In ‘Hamster to Harmony’ I challenge readers to ask themselves three of the most important questions they are likely to ever ask.
Answering them with complete honesty is not for the faint-hearted.
I have 3 very different but equally important questions for you as a presenter
To answer them you need to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and see things from their perspective:
– Do I trust and like this speaker?
– Does the speaker really understand and care about me?
– Will my personal or professional life be better for listening to them?
Chapter 5: Decide your purpose
“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” Carl Jung
I believe that anyone who takes the platform to speak in public has the same purpose: ‘to kindle a light’
In my experience far too many business presentations lack clear purpose
‘A quarterly update’, ‘project review’ or ‘team briefing’, isn’t a clear purpose.
To ‘kindle a light’ in your audience you have to be clear on the two key elements that will give your presentation purpose.
– What you want them to do the moment you finish speaking?
– How you want them to feel?
Chapter 6: Finish your story and move on
‘We all like a good story and in fact when we were small children we loved them, we couldn’t get enough of them.’
In the book, I explain how many of us have a story which can severely hold us back in life. There comes a time when we need to let go of that story and move on.
My advice for presenters with regard to storytelling is quite different.
Stories add meaning and context to a presentation
Don’t move on until you’ve told one.
Stories capture our imagination and help us to connect with our audience emotionally as well as intellectually.
Chapter 7: Choose and decide wisely
‘Through our thoughts we can not only radically change our own lives, we can also change the lives of those around us and even the whole world.’
Public speaking anxiety is a major issue for countless professionals.
Much of that paralysing nervousness comes from the thoughts we choose to hold in our minds about presenting to an audience.
Some people tell me that their negative thoughts aren’t chosen, they are completely involuntary.
I understand that perspective of course, but we do have the choice to decide which of our thoughts to hold on to, repeat and believe.
Don’t choose these thoughts:
‘What if they don’t like me?
‘ I might forget my words?’
‘What if I freeze?’
Chapter 8 – Use your 6 gifts
‘As well as five incredible gifts of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch… we each have access to six other extremely precious gifts that we rarely think about.’
Let’s relate the 6 gifts I refer to in the book to presentation skills tips.
When you look at yourself as a speaker what do you really see?
Most people focus on their bad habits. Very few stop to really see where there strengths are.
When you look at your audience what do you see?
Do you see ‘predators’, critics or judges?
Do you see mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters?
In other words, do you see an audience of human beings just like you?
How do you use yours and help your audience to use theirs?
Do you tell stories, use compelling slides, descriptive language?
Do you read from bullet points as many presenters do, or do you dare to be different?
Will is the ability we each have to focus on something at the exclusion of all other distractions.
What do you focus on and what do you want your audience to focus on?
If your audience could only remember one thing from your presentation, what do you want them to remember?
Your audience wants you to connect with them emotionally as well as intellectually. They will insist on you helping them to make sense of your presentation through reason.
They want the facts, evidence and logic too.
If you want to speak dynamically with your audience you need to be able to tune into your own intuition.
– Are they still engaged?
– Am I focused on them rather than my own performance?
– Does this feel right?
‘Hamster to harmony’ isn’t a book about presenting or public speaking.
It’s a book about how to get better results in life.
Most of our results are achieved through the way we communicate with ourselves and others.
With that in mind, it’s no real surprise when reading it many years later that I see so much synergy with what I teach today in public speaking and presenting.
If you’d to learn many more presentation skills tips:
– 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
Dennis SmithPosted on 8th August 2016 at 3:30 pm
Great article Maurice! Couldn’t help but think about webinar and live video presentations that are so prevalent now.
Maurice DecastroPosted on 25th August 2016 at 9:32 am
Thanks Dennis, I’m really pleased you like it. We have a webinar on our Learning centre but you’re right we need to lead the way with more, and videos too. Watch this space..