Public Speaking and Presenting Lessons from Halloween

 

Halloween pumpkin scarecrow

Presenting and public speaking for many professionals can be a really scary experience.

Tonight is Halloween so with a huge bucket of sweets strategically placed by the front door I am ready for the annual onslaught. Last year our door bell was pounded by some extremely imaginative and excited 6 year old witches, goblins and ghouls of every description.

Just as technology is changing the landscape of our entire world each year it seems the imagination of parents and children also excels itself at Halloween.

Thankfully Halloween is only an annual event but it does get me thinking about the perceived terror that millions of people face every day in business presentations and public speaking. 

To many presenters their audiences may just as well be wearing scary masks but it really doesn’t have to be that frightening and the following suggestions will go a long way to helping you: 

1. They want a treat too

I’ve never opened the door to a 6 year old on Halloween who knocked with the intention of tricking me. Everyone wants a treat, that’s why they went to the trouble of dressing up and made it all the way to your front door. 

Your audience is the same they want a treat from you too.

That’s your first priority, to see them as friends rather than foes that have arrived at your front door for a treat and your sole purpose is to give them one. 

2. Leave the lights on 

For some people Halloween is the annual ritual of pulling all of the blinds down, turning all of the lights off and watching television with the volume turned down really low. Some people approach presenting in largely the same way. 

We owe it to our audience to turn the light on and make it as bright as possible. 

That means walking up with a smile, a purposeful stride and a mind and body that says I’m here to brighten your day. The best way to do that is to be very clear at the outset what your intention is; how you want them to feel.

Excited

Inspired

Encouraged 

Supported 

Once you have that intention clear in your mind hold it there. In other words, whatever you want your audience to feel you have to feel yourself first.

Holding that feeling and image at the forefront of your mind as you craft and deliver every aspect of your presentation will tell your voice and body exactly what to do as you speak. 

3. Get dressed up

I’m sure you’ll agree that for many of those scary 6 year olds knocking at your door on Halloween the best part of the event is the preparation. They are already crystal clear about their intention as they arrive on your doorstep, they want to scare you and so they meticulously craft every aspect of their approach with that in mind. 

When it comes to presenting we have to adopt exactly the same attitude. That doesn’t mean we set out to scare them but we do dress for the occasion.

Of course that doesn’t just mean we have to look our very best and most suited to the occasion we have to create content which supports our intention. A well-dressed presentation filled with conscious intention will contain 3 critical elements. 

Factual – to include some of the following:

Features

Benefits

Data 

Logical argument

Examples 

Case studies 

Exhibits & props 

Emotional – to include some of the following: 

Stories 

Metaphors

Anecdotes

Thought provoking questions

Suspense 

Shock

Humour 

Surprise

Visionary – to include ALL of the following: 

The big picture

It’s a mindset 

Whether you see Halloween as a painful and stressful event or one to immerse yourself in, enjoy and make the most of is quite akin to the way you approach your next presentation. It’s all a mindset and if you develop the presence of mind to give your audience a treat, leave the lights on and get dressed up for them you’ll thrive during your next presentation rather than merely hope to survive.

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Image: Courtesy of flickr.com

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