Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Few Techniques for Improving Your Presentations

I use Evernote exclusively for note capturing, saving and referencing.  It is a powerful tool for anyone in the business of content creation and sharing. One of the nice parts of having a few days off of the road is I get to peruse my (over 5,000) Evernote notes to discover content I haven't taught or shared in awhile.  I stumbled on this piece that I haven't shared on this blog.  This is seven pieces I put together a few years ago while working on my first presentations skills training book.  Enjoy.  I hope you find them valuable.

What is the engine of your speech? What is driving/fueling the interest for the listener? This is essential for you to discover early on in your preparing and then drive everything in your presentation back to it.  I suggest your engine be the one or two actions you expect the audience to take as a result of your presentation.

How do you look visually? Where is the connection with your message? If I video recorded you speaking and played it back without the audio, would I pick up any visual cues that illustrate your passion, conviction or even interest in your own topic?

I used to have a terrible time trying to remember what type of toothpaste I use. I would just put toothpaste on the grocery list and then get there and have no idea what type I used. Finally, I devised a plan. My  favorite toothpaste is Aquafresh Extra Fresh. I made a strong mental note of that phrase and it was easy to do because both words ended with "fresh." This catchy and memorable product name made it much easier to remember what type of toothpaste I like. If you want your audience to remember key thoughts and points, put a catchy title to them.

I love Oklahoma State University athletic events - basketball and football especially. OSU was playing Gonzaga at the Ford Center in OKC a few years ago. Both teams were in the top 15 and the event was packed. After the game, all 15,000 people were leaving and trying to cross a very busy intersection. There were two traffic cops out in the middle of the intersection "directing" traffic with red wands and whistles. There was a lot of waving and blowing going on, but not much understanding going on. The drivers, as well as the walkers, were totally confused as to when to go and when to stop. The traffic officers meant well and were there for our safety, but their communication tools were not effective. More than once, an accident was one red wand and whistle from happening. Make certain that the audience can clearly and effectively understand your communication tools. The red wands and whistles were a good idea, but some simple voice commands and arm movements would have served everyone much better.

For many summers I worked with 90 of the nation's best high school basketball players at a summer camp. We work on leadership and communication skills. Everyone is in camp attire, so I always dressed just one step above with khakis and loafers and a polo shirt. One year I stepped it up with dress slacks, a nicer polo and my nice dress shoes. The response from the coaches (who are the same every year) was interesting, but not surprising. They treated me with more respect and with higher regard because they're perception of me was in direct relation with how I dressed.  A quick way to give your credibility and "perceived expertise level" a boost is to dress sharp.

If the penmanship is horrible and can't be read, the words become meaningless. Learn how to clearly and succinctly communicate your message to each audience.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Generating Enthusiasm Out of Thin Air

You never quite know what state of mind the audience will be in.  After 20 years of speaking and training I have developed a good sense on it, but I still am purposeful about planning in techniques to get the audience as engaged as possible.  This is vital for two main reasons:

1. The audience walks in with baggage.  Thoughts, experiences, feelings, relationships, projects, etc. from the previous week, day or even hour.  It is your responsibility to give them a compelling reason to check out of those and into the moment.

2. The audience needs time to ramp up.  You've been (hopefully) thinking about your content and how it applies to this audience for days, weeks, even years. However, your audience is just now getting it for the first time.  They need time to get up to speed.  Taking a few moments at the first of your program to get them engaged is effective at accomplishing this.

So, what are the techniques I use consistently to generate enthusiasm from the audience for today, this program, this content, this moment, etc.? Following is my standard checklist.

Lights - Either very bright or very dark with a very bright focal point (video, stage, etc.)

Temperature - The room should feel chilly when it is empty. It depends on the size of the room/audience, but I normally ask the facility to set the temperature at 68. Colder equals higher attention.

Music - Upbeat, age appropriate, etc. Have it playing before anyone walks into the room and use it throughout your program.  I have many moments where the audience is working with a partner and I always play music while the chatting or working is going on.  (Click here to view an image of my lists.)

Seating - The closer to the front and the closer to one another the better. If you have to assign ushers, rope off sections or take out chairs, do it.  It is that influential.

Me - Be nice, even care-ismatic. You can't yell people into getting excited. Reward whatever involvement they do give. Don't say things like "come on guys - you can do better than that." Smile. Look like you are enjoying the moment. Talk quicker. Walk quicker. Look and sound excited yourself. Don't overdo it though. Develop a sensibility of how much is just enough.

Level Awareness - This one is critical.  If I am walking into an evening session, I know the enthusiasm is most likely already at a 7 or 8. My job really is to just keep them there.  However, if I am walking in to a morning session or a traditionally boring session, they might be at a 3 or 4. My job then is to get them to a 5 or 6. I need to remember that they will probably never get to a 7 or 8 and I shouldn't expect that or work to get them there.

Be Specific with Instructions - You can't just tell a group of people to get excited. You have to tell them how you want them to act. ask them to... Yell, clap, stand up, high-five your neighbor, etc. Be specific.

If you have a specific situation or group of people you commonly deal with or know is coming up and you want some ideas, just email me.  owner (at) yournextspeaker.com.  I'll reply back quickly and with some ideas.  Good luck!