Monday, November 17, 2008

Authenticity Rule #6 - The Mask Rule: Know Your Enemies

Authenticity Rule #6
The Mask Rule: Know Your Enemies

You have a variety of forces working against your ability to be the best of yourself as a presenter. These forces mask your authenticity and should be viewed as enemies, i.e. you need to know them intimately and you need to fight them.

Following are three of the most enduring enemies presenters have battled for centuries:

1. Tepidness

You must be engaging as a presenter, especially in today's busy and noisy world. If you take a tepid approach to either your content, your topic, your audience or the actual act of presenting, you are telling your audience to not listen. This tepidness comes across primarily from your non-verbals, which make up 60% of the meaning of your message for your audience members.

Lukewarm Non-Verbals

  • Monotone speech pattern
  • Lack of eye contact
  • No variety in facial expressions (as well as no smiling)
  • No variety in volume
  • Lack of gestures
Tepidness is also revealed by using weak language. Weak language includes wishy-washy words like "kind of, sort of, maybe, possibly." These words suggest that you may be saying one thing, but either you really don't firmly believe it or you aren't passionate enough about what you are saying to take sides. Effective, authentic presenters don't sacrifice passion for diplomacy.

2. Separation

Our second enemy is the most relevant to your audience because it concerns their world - not connecting with your audience. You should be very concerned with separation from your listeners. This enemy can be defeated both on location and during the preparation process.

On location you can start connecting with your audience even before you start speaking. Mingle with them, ask questions, demonstrate interest in their answers by asking follow-up questions and learn names (and use them in your presentation). During your presentation, make direct eye contact, avoid using a podium, and be aware of any sensory needs they might have (lights, temperature, microphone volume, outside noise level, etc.)

You can also help ensure a strong connection with your audience by doing your homework far in advance. Ask yourself questions about your audience and then build both your content and your technique around the answers. Nancy Duarte, author of the great presentation slide development book Slide:ology, suggests putting together an audience persona. Click here to view a PowerPoint slide with her seven audience research questions.

3. Blandness

Your job as a presenter is to move your audience in one or many of the following ways:

Intellectually (to teach)
Emotionally (to inspire)
Physically (to direct)
Conceptually (to show)

Movement requires attention. Attention requires motive. Your audience will listen to you, believe you/your content and even act upon this belief if you give them a good enough reason. One of the best reasons to listen is newness, freshness, creative ideas, etc. If your presentation is bland, your audience will start checking out the second you start. The blandness enemy shows up most commonly in two areas, logistical and content.

Logistical Blandness - When a presenter does things the way they have always been done: same room set-up, same visual aids, same presentation length, same audience interaction, etc.

Content Blandness - When a presenter uses content that is safe, but over-used: commonly used quotes, stories, facts, data, etc.

Your audience members' brains require fresh stimuli to motivate attention. Give it to them. Give your presentation some life, zest, excitement, and flavor. They will not only thank you for it, but they will also be more willing and able to take action. This is the hallmark of all truly authentic presenters. The experience and their content have a long life because it is unique and thus easier to remember.

This list of enemies is in no way complete. However, if you tackle just these three enemies, you are well on your way to creating a room full of friends.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Developing Your Stories

I just picked up a great book that every speaker should digest: The Story Factor by Annette Simmons.

Here is a strategy from Annette on how to develop two of your six important stories:

Developing “Who Am I /Why I’m here” Stories:

Step One: What personal qualities make you a trustworthy person? Are you compassionate, smart, courageous, honest, etc?

Step Two: Since you can hardly walk into a room and expect people to believe “I am a trustworthy person”, choose one of these qualities and develop a three-minute story that delivers evidence of that quality:

A time in your life when this quality was tested.
A person/event in your life that taught you the importance of this quality.
A time when you failed your own standards and decided to never let it happen again.
A movie/story/event that exemplifies this quality for you.

Step Three: Find someone to listen to your story. Ask them to tell you what they like about the story and what this story tells them about you. Ask them to refrain from making suggestions or giving a critique. Tell it again to someone else.

Step Four: Tell your story the next time you give a presentation or try to influence someone…if it works, tell it again.

If you found that valuable, you will love her book!