Susan Finch Read or Listen
My daughter, a Sophomore in high school, praises the knowledge being taught in her chemistry class. There is a BUT - "But, I fall asleep because he is monotone and doesn't ever pause." We volunteer to lead committees, at our companies we introduce people at meetings, present ideas, we make sales presentations.
Replay it in your head. Did you entertain them? Did you hold their attention so they'd actually put down their phone or tablet? No, they were not taking notes, LIES. Our attention spans have decreased and the competition for our attention has exploded. We are pulled in so many directions. If you are the LIVE person in the room, you'd better be able to hold their attention. Would you hold your OWN attention? Pulling my own covers, some of my tutorial videos from my Geekspeak Guides series still make me smile. I'm good! My kids laugh when they see me laughing and nodding at my own videos. I even know what's coming next. Probably a sad admission.
Here are some suggestions to STOP being boring.
- MOVE around the room.
- KNOW and BELIEVE your material.
- If you are introducing or talking about people, be 100% sure how to pronounce their names, their company and verify their position. If you don't want to ask them, ask someone else who knows them or the executive assistant. They are usually pretty cool about helping with that. It's saved me dozens of times.
- Make EYE contact - even when presenting monthly reports. You don't have to have it memorized, but PLEASE stop staring at the PowerPoint/Slides presentation behind you or at your notes/laptop. Look up. Most likely, you wrote and researched all of this. You don't need to be reading from it.
- Brings me to the other point:
PowerPoint/Slides are not a TelePrompter. They are to drive home what you are saying with a visual and a couple of key points.
YOU have the knowledge.
YOU have the answers.
YOU will help them learn or be inspired - not the slideshow.
- Reach out of the speaker box. There is an invisible box around us - sometimes is rectangular, but it has the front wall. Dip out of it to jar the audience into noticing you and what you are saying again. Caution: keep in mind personal space, especially with a small group in a small room - stretch up instead or out to the side.
- ASK questions - even just check ins such as, "Can you believe it?" "Does that make sense?" "Has that happened to you?" "Are you excited yet?" - something - but mix it up - one every 5-7 minutes is good to change the pace and wake them up.
- Don't swallow your words. Teens and those under 30 are especially vulnerable to this one. You just fade away into your own throat and we can't follow you. I've seen audiences lean forward as if trying to grab the words before they are gone - straining to make sense of the inaudible punchline or point, but then the point is gone - and so is their attention.
- SMILE when you talk - stretch your face - it will come through in your points. It increases the energy and mixes up the pace.
- Careful on the acronyms.
- It's OK to have "white space" aka "pregnant pause" when you speak. But make it look intentional, rather than staring up as if you are looking to where your next point floated away. This is much better than the Um transitions, likes, ya'know, actually, and the rest of those crutches.
- Careful with the upspeak. If you are asking something - then ask. Otherwise, be direct or your resounding lack of confidence will hang in the room and lull them to sleep.
When speaking one on one different points apply:
Do not hold people hostage.
This means at a group event, do not corner someone or a couple of people and cram their ears full of your wisdom. Realize they may not want to hear what you are wanting to enlighten them with. Have you ever left a conversation and felt like your brain had been assaulted with something you didn't care about and you recounted the time lost forever, never to be regained? Be honest here.
ASK before you present, or at least test the waters.
Tell them the time before you tell them how you made the watch. If they don't care about the time, they won't care about the watch. When testing the waters, think of your topic as a full page ad in the NY Times. You need a HEADLINE to grab them and make them want more. If you can't get that right, they may not be your audience, or it just may not be the time to talk about your topic.
Ask them something about what they do first and then SHUT UP and LISTEN to the answer.
Realize there is a chance you'll never get to say anything if they haven't read this post. But, hopefully, they'll remember you listened.
This continues the conversation and some of the same points on Neuromarketing covered by David Lewis recently on SLMA Radio.