We live in a world of change; the question is, has public speaking and business presenting changed over the last 3 decades?
We now have:
That’s just scratching the surface of advances in technology and we all know that life is much more than technology. It doesn’t matter what aspect of life, society or the world you choose to look at, the last 3 decades has seen incredible change.
What about public speaking and business presenting?
Given that just about everything seems to have changed I often ask the question ‘What exactly has changed in the world of public speaking and business presenting?
My experience is, not a great deal.
Whilst we’ve seen the arrival of PowerPoint and a range of other presentation software I believe that technology and techniques aside, professionals working in some of the biggest and most successful brands in the world are still presenting exactly the same as they were 30 years ago
In conferences, board rooms, team meetings, sales pitches, updates and key notes all over the world, too many people are stifling yawns whilst discreetly checking their email on their mobile phones.
Bullet point after bullet point, slides fraught with text you can barely read, graphs, charts, tables and a torrent of data designed to impress, are numbing people to sleep every day all over the world. Far too many presenters continue to insist on dumping information on their audience which they could have conveyed far less painfully in an email. Oblivious to the pain and suffering presenters are inflicting on fellow human beings, their appetite to demonstrate how much they know and how hard they work still seems to be relentless.
What’s worse is when you ask those same presenters how they feel when they are on the receiving end of information and data abuse, their distress is obvious. What is more concerning is when you ask the same professional why it is they do the same thing to their audience, knowing the psychological and emotional suffering they are causing, they often answer saying:
‘I don’t know’
‘Everyone does it’
‘I have to, my audience want and need the information’
We live in the digital information age where people are bombarded with data and information each day. A great deal of it is impersonal and disconnected. Many of us are already overwhelmed with so many statistics, ideas, messages and advice that we have little time to think.
When we are sitting in a room listening to another human being, the one thing we need more than anything else is to feel connected to the person presenting and to their idea. It’s the emotional connection which helps us to understand and act on the information shared.
We may have seen improvements in some areas in the way we present to each other in business but in our experience, for the most part things really haven’t changed too much. In some cases, it’s getting worse.
As presenters, we need to take ourselves off of ‘auto-pilot’, slow down, calm down and breathe. As we do so, we can then begin to craft our presentation with the end in mind.
Our starting point should always be understanding our intention. In other words, why are we really giving the presentation and how do we want our audience to feel about our message and the information we are planning to share.
If you set out with the pure intention of really connecting with your audience, you will find a way to do so which respects them and puts them first. There are only three things you need to do to stand out from the crowd and give your audience something they don’t see every day.
1. Make it personal
– Speak to them as though you are sitting across the dinner table from them, make eye contact and don’t forget to smile.
– Make sure that everything you say is personal and relevant to them.
– Consider how you would answer if one of your audience interrupted by asking, ‘ So what, why should I care about that?’
– Give them something they don’t already know or can’t easily Google for themselves.
– Don’t pad it out or try to impress them, get straight to the point.
– Make a point of asking your audience how much they already know about your topic before they arrive to listen to you. While you ask them that question, make the effort find out what they would like to know and how you could help them.
2. Do the unexpected
– Try standing up instead of sitting down.
– Open with a bang and ditch the usual niceties.
– Don’t stand still, move. Movement is energy and visual stimulation so use your space.
– Smile, breathe and pause.
– Spend a great deal of time preparing and practicing.
– Slow down.
3. Make them feel something
– Don’t just dump data and facts on them. Bring the data to life and make sure that every piece of information matters.
– Use humour, compassion and empathy; they maybe your audience but they are also someone’s son or daughter too.
– Give them a new perspective, show them a new way; ask them questions.
– Tell them stories, after all, that’s how we are all hardwired to listen, learn and connect.
– Find common ground by putting yourself in their shoes and make sure they know you understand them.
– If you have to use slides, ditch the templates and think like a designer
‘Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.’ George Bernard Shaw
If you’d like to present with impact in a changing world:
– 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
Image courtesy of canva.com