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Clint Eastwood: disrupter or distractor?
8 methods to be disruptive, not distracting
In this age of information overload, the window of opportunity to keep your audience’s attention gets smaller by the tweet. How bad is it? It has been reported that we are bombarded by the equivalent of 174 newspapers of data a day. No doubt about it, we constantly battle a tidal wave of information demanding our attention.
Here are eight ways to “disrupt” the barrage of noise so your message is heard.
1. Tell a story.
As children, we all loved hearing stories. That hasn’t changed. Storytelling is instantly engaging because it taps into the feeling that we’re going to be let in on some sort of secret.
2. Make ‘em laugh.
Provided it is relevant to your subject, saying something humorous breaks tension. It also humanizes you and provides listeners with a new way of thinking about the topic at hand.
3. Use transitional phrases.
Crisp transitional statements like, ““Before I go on, let’s summarize…” help listeners know where to focus. Two others to try:
“The second issue is…”
“Now that we understand (summary statement), let’s look at (next topic)…”
4. Bring the Q&A in early.
Solicit questions often and early. Integrating your audience into your presentation engages them by allowing them to make comments or simply gain clarity.
5. Ask a question.
Ask your audience to share an example of the subject being discussed. If time is tight, ask a rhetorical question to get them thinking. Another way to engage is to ask a question and request a show of hands in response.
Yes, the simple act of leaving the front of the room and walking into and around your audience provides an element of surprise that keeps your listeners alert.
7. Get them talking.
Help listeners process your ideas by asking them to talk to the person sitting next to them. For example, you could ask them to share with their neighbor, “What would you do differently as a result of this presentation?” This technique effectively disrupts the status quo and helps re-engage your audience, while allowing you to assess their level of comprehension.
8. Reward participation.
He who participates gets a sticker. He who has the most stickers at the end wins a prize. Friendly competition prompts participation regardless of the makeup of your audience — from C-level executives to front-line employees, I’ve seen this work across the board.
Whichever technique(s) you try, remember — keep it relevant. From the story or joke you tell to the participation reward or activity you choose, make sure it paves the way for your listeners to take in your message. Whether Eastwood was a disputer or distractor may be debatable. . . what is essential is to be able to disrupt everything else that may be distracting your audience so they can listen and act based on the powerful information you share.
What disruptive methods have worked for you? Please share!
The True Cost of Independence
Reflections on the 4th of July
This holiday, when they play the national anthem prior to the fireworks display, my mind and heart will be with our soldiers around the world. I hope that yours will, too.
Bring the Backstory to the Forefront
Reveal the “Why” Behind
These days, almost every company is scouring the balance sheet, looking for savings. The value of business meetings, for example, is seriously scrutinized and presenters are asking themselves: “How can I create a presentation that delivers real bottom-line results?”
For an answer, first imagine a presenter who says the following:
“We need to develop an optimum contract agreement with our South American distributor in support of our 2016 subsidiary conversion plan.” Would that motivate you to get the job done?
Now imagine a speaker who translates that uninspiring sentence into an intriguing story. “Let me tell you something about ruby slippers and what they have to do with our contact in South America.” Frame a story that reveals exactly why this distributor is so important to company sales and growth opportunities — and to the entire audience’s job security. Now that’s inspiring!
I call this kind of backstory the “Why” Behind. Presenting the facts isn’t enough. You need to explain WHY the facts are important.
Give your presentation real meaning. Before your next presentation, ask yourself these three questions:
Question #1: Am I being clear?
The most effective presenters strip away the jargon, industry lingo and acronyms. They deliver meaningful information using simple, understandable language. This isn’t a radical idea, it won’t offend anyone and you won’t appear uninformed. Instead, you will be clear and easily understood with little room for misinterpretation.
Let’s say your company’s strategy is to “improve customer service by hiring quality personnel who are brand connected and have strong business acumen.”
Instead, consider the “Why” Behind and try this: “hire people who live our brand and know how to make a dollar.”
Question #2: Why is my presentation important to my audience?
To really get your message across, ask yourself, “Why is this important to my audience? Why should they care?” Connecting your message to success and opportunity for your audience guarantees their engagement.
Let’s say your company is planning to “develop an optimum contractual agreement with distribution as part of a long-term plan for South America.”
Instead, try this: “Our South American contract is essential because it represents 10% of our global business. If we finalize this contract over the next three months, we can grow our brand in a key market and hit our revenue goals.”
Question #3: How can I make sure my message sticks?
Making your message sticky means making it memorable. Stickiness definitely takes creativity and thinking outside the box — but it doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds.
Let’s say your company’s customers are having an inferior in-store experience and sales are down. As a result, you’re rolling out a new customer service training initiative.
How can you make your message stick and gain audience support? Simply share the “Why” Behind. Tell a couple of stories about real customer experiences. Offer personal anecdotes and use highly visual slides to grab attention:
- Show a revolving door to represent high turnover
- Put up a picture of an associate who embodies your brand
- Describe that associate’s reaction to the new customer service training
By making your presentation sticky, you’ll be on your way toward getting the results you need.
Your listeners may not remember all the specifics of your presentation. But by using the “Why” Behind technique, you’ll ensure that they will remember the backstory — and give you the support you need to achieve your objectives.
When TED talks, people listen.
Who would imagine that a talk entitled, “How to Use A Paper Towel” could be informative, engaging and memorable. Joe Smith, an attorney and active figure in the Oregon community did. Speaking at the TEDx Conference at Concordia University in Oregon, Joe reveals the trick to a perfect paper towel technique.
Enlighting and fun, as you watch this video consider how Joe:
- Uses the “Rule of 3” to create engaging content.
- Captures your attention with “little known facts.”
- Connects with his audience.
- Maximizes the impact of his message using props.
Who Said PowerPoint Rules?“I want you to discuss your accomplishments in the meeting, but please — no more than four slides.”
That was the directive given to my husband last week as he prepared for a company performance review meeting. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. When did PowerPoint become our default communication mode? I fear that someday soon I’ll sit down to have a conversation and be expected to launch my slides.
We know we’re in trouble when we start defining the type and quality of our communications in terms of slides. And since most decks don’t follow the “glance & grab” principle, there is typically only one place to go — downhill.
“Back away from the projector…”
The best presenters don’t see PowerPoint as the answer to every situation. Instead, before they create a single slide, they take a step back and ask a few questions:
- “Who is my audience?”
- “What do I need to tell them?”
- “What’s the ideal way to get my message across?”
Effective speakers shift their emphasis from slide-focused — “how much can I fit on this slide?” — to audience-focused, making sure their listeners can hear, understand and take action. If you are committed to optimal communication whenever you step up to speak, try this four-step process:
Step 1: Translate the directive.
What if “Use no more than four slides” really means, “Keep on point and on time”? Approaching a presentation from that perspective can help you focus on what’s really important, instead of just producing an arbitrary number of slides.
Warning: Sometimes you really don’t have a choice. For example, if your boss expects everyone to use the same PowerPoint template, then it’s best to go with the flow.
Step 2: Gather your thoughts.
Take a few minutes to mull over what you want to say. Can you capture it in one simple sentence? Some call this the core message, but I call it your unique perspective. In other words, it’s a one-sentence summary of your personal view of the situation.
For some people, getting organized and finding their perspective means opening PowerPoint and jotting down ideas. That’s fine! Others use Word or even a piece of paper — whatever works for you.
Warning: Even if you use PowerPoint to organize your thoughts, it doesn’t mean you’re locked into using slides in your final presentation.
Step 3: Consider other support tools.
We rely so heavily on slides that we rarely think about using other media or even props for support. Ask yourself, “What’s the best way to maximize my impact?”
When Steve Jobs introduced the MacBook Air, he carried an interoffice envelope onto the stage. After a while, he dramatically pulled out the slim, lightweight new computer. Talk about impact!
Warning: Use media (slides, video or audio) only if it boosts the power of your message.
Step 4: Whatever approach you choose, practice it.
If you’re only given five to seven minutes to present, it’s essential to honor the time allotted to you. The best way to stay on schedule is not by limiting the number of your slides, but rather by practicing out loud.
Warning: Practice your presentation so you finish in time. And if you are using slides, video, or props, be sure to include it in your practice.
Instead of following the crowd and relying on a slide show when you present, shift your emphasis. Think about your audience and what will maximize your message. Deliver your message with poise and passion and you’ll be confident, heard and inspiring — whenever you step up to speak.
Recommended Reading to Boost Your Presentation IQ
Recently, a client expressed anxiety about presenting. She said she always over-prepared, obsessing for weeks in advance, losing sleep and repeatedly rehashing what she wanted to say and do.
I asked her, “When do you know your presentation is good enough?”
She responded, “Good enough to do what?”
Her question led me to read TJ Walker’s two excellent books, How to Give a Pretty Good Presentation and TJ Walker’s Secret to Foolproof Presentations.
Walker writes in a quick, easy-to-read, conversational manner with no pretense — his knowledge and experience can help catapult any presentation from boring to bravo. I shared these books with my client and recommend them to you.
How to Give a Pretty Good Presentation
In today’s extreme business environment, you have to balance time and performance. So the challenge becomes, how can you be “good enough” to impact business results?
According to Walker, as long as you find a way to have an impact, you don’t need to be a rock star. Walker’s step-by-step advice can help almost anyone write, rehearse and deliver presentations that he calls “pretty good” — which means good enough to make a difference.
After reading this book, my client pointed to one helpful tip in particular. Walker says it’s important to select a single idea to convey to your audience and to focus your presentation on that message. That helped my client after she was promoted to vice president and, with 30 minutes’ notice, had to address a group in her new role.
She followed Walker’s advice, spoke with confidence and earned a high level of credibility with her peers.
TJ Walker’s Secret to Foolproof Presentations
Using a snappy Q&A format, Walker answers just about every question you’ve ever had — but were afraid to ask — about giving a presentation. Each answer is given in a clear, direct way; each suggestion is easy to understand and easy to implement.
One of Walker’s best pieces of advice is to keep it real and be yourself. As he points out, polished and professional may mean that you are suddenly just like every other presenter. Walker says, “Doing what everyone else is doing is playing it safe. . . . You must do something, anything, in order to get people to leave your presentation with a positive impression of you and your ideas.”
Walker also offers excellent advice about using PowerPoint. He suggests that you create two separate PowerPoint decks:
- a streamlined, highly visual version to project on-screen, and
- a more detailed version with all of your text, data and charts that can be used as a handout or email follow-up.
Both these titles are worthy additions to your bookshelf. Take a look, and you’ll find they are must-have resources that will help you be confident, heard and inspiring whenever you step up to speak.
Giving Voice to Greater Success
Talent shows are back on U.S. television and bigger than ever. One of the newest is The Voice, where vocalists compete for a recording contract and $100,000. What makes this show unique is its innovative “blind audition,” in which judges select contestants based solely on their voice.
How would you measure up if your entire presentation was judged solely on your voice?
Once you’re comfortable with your content and organization, it’s time to enhance your delivery using these techniques to make the most of your unique voice.
The Four Ps of Vocal Expressiveness
Let’s take a closer look at each of these important skills and learn some easy ways to put them to work for you.
Power refers to volume — how loudly or softly you speak. You want to ensure that you’re clearly heard and understood everywhere in the room. In addition, your volume should reflect the emotional content of your presentation. For example, if your goal is to “rally the troops,”then you’ll naturally be louder and more expressive.
Pro Tip: If you’re concerned that you may not be heard across the room, simply ask someone to raise a hand if they’re having difficulty hearing you. Listeners will be happy to help — and may even pay closer attention to what you’re saying!
Pace is how quickly or slowly you speak. Pace is influenced by:
- The complexity of your subject
- The size of the audience/room
- Your ability to articulate
Many people speak too fast during presentations, especially when they are nervous or unprepared.
Pro Tip: An unvaried pace can sound monotone. Try to mix it up a bit, which keeps listeners engaged and highlights key parts of your presentation.
Pitch is your tone of voice. Many speakers do not communicate their feelings adequately because they do not vary their pitch and rhythm enough. A natural, conversational tone provides vocal variety and helps you make an emotional connection with your audience.
Pro Tip: Being conversational means sounding friendly, using contractions and short words, avoiding jargon — in essence, using the everyday approach of talking with a colleague.
Pause refers to the spaces between sentences, phrases or words. Pauses serve as verbal “punctuation marks” that:
- Give the audience time to think about your content
- Add variety and provide a break, keeping listeners attentive
- Provide time for you to breathe and speak at a controlled pace
If you’re afflicted with the “ums,” “ahs” or “you knows,” conscious pauses are also the best way to start eliminating these useless fillers.
Pro Tip: Start adding pauses to your presentations by taking a breath at the end of every major phrase or sentence.
By following the Four Ps, you may not win any singing contests, but you’ll leverage one of the most powerful and unique tools you have — your voice.
5 Secrets to Persuasive Communications
Let’s say you’re preparing to speak to your board of directors, present a budget for approval, launch a new initiative or rally the troops in the office. And let’s assume that each of these endeavors requires a persuasive conversation.
Like most business people, you approach this task as a straightforward process, consisting of:
- A clear statement of what needs to be accomplished
- A strong statement of a solution with data based supporting arguments
- An assumption that the audience will readily agree with an understanding of “the facts”
- A confident and engaging delivery
Clarity, logic, and personal enthusiasm make sense, right? If it were only that simple!
The skills of persuasion are not new. But in our hurry to get something completed and off our “to do” list, we forget the basics that contribute to effective communication and strong business leadership.
The keys to being a persuasive communicator date back to the 4th century when Aristotle developed the three pillars of persuasion: Ethos, Pathos and Logos.
WHAT ARE ETHOS, PATHOS, AND LOGOS?
In the simplest terms. . .
- Ethos concerns the credibility (or character) of the speaker
- Pathos addresses the speakers emotional connection to the audience
- Logos is the coherence or logical reasoning of the argument being presented
Flash forward to the 21st century and Jay Conger, a Professor of Organizational Behavior at the University of Southern California. While studying successful business leaders over a 12-year period, Conger identified the qualities of effective persuasion. Interestingly enough, his findings align with the characteristics Aristotle identified so many years ago.
HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO YOU?
Tip #1: Establish Your Credibility.
When presented with an opportunity in which persuasion or influence are critical, award winning communicator Andrew Dlugan in the article, Ethos, Pathos, Logos: 3 Pillars of Public Speaking, suggests you consider:
- Does the audience respect me?
- Does the audience believe I am of good character?
- Does the audience believe I am generally trustworthy?
- Does the audience believe I am an authority on this topic?
Tip #2: Create an Emotional Connection.
Your ability to emotionally connect with your audience contributes to your authenticity and trustworthiness.
- Do your words evoke feelings of … care and concern? … collaboration?
- Do your visuals evoke feelings or are they data-driven – therefore not addressing the human side of the story?
- Do you take the time to build a rapport with your audience, greeting them as they walk in the room, smiling and having eye contact?
Tip #3: Clarify and Organize Your Message.
A strong, logical position tends to have lots of examples and leads to a rational conclusion.
- Does your message make sense?
- Is your message based on facts, statistics, and evidence?
- Will your call-to-action lead to the desired outcome that you promise?
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. . . !
As we evolve from what Conger refers to as the Age of Command to the Age of Persuasion, in addition to logos, pathos and ethos, I propose two additional principles that contribute to becoming a more effective communicator.
Tip #4: Collaborate.
When preparing for an important conversation you have a better chance of “winning” when you confer and collaborate with others. Don’t underestimate the value of considering differing perspectives and welcoming the input of colleagues and business partners.
Tip #5: Gain Commitment.
In the real world, most decisions are made before the meeting. Perform the needed due diligence, understand who your stakeholders are and their position on the subject, and develop buy-in prior to the all-important presentation. Communicate to gain input and commitment.
IS ONE “PRINCIPLE” MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANOTHER?
While Aristotle believed that logos should be the most important of the three persuasive qualities, he understood that all three pillars are essential. Conger would agree with this teaching.
They are right, of course. I contend that while credibility, emotional connection and coherent logic are each indispensable to persuasive communication, adding collaboration and commitment to this equation transforms a “strong argument” into a “winning proposition.”
What do you think?
Reach Out & Touch Someone: Communicate with Emotion
Though the tools may have changed — Skype, cell phones, Facebook, Twitter — the concept of “reaching out” and connecting with someone (or lots of someones!) on an emotional level remains just as vital for today’s high-stakes presenters.
Too often, I find that shyness or a lack of confidence keep speakers from focusing their presentations where they belong — on the audience. Self-conscious about how they look or sound, their presence can feel reserved and distant, almost as if they are talking to themselves.
Presenters who break through this distance and reach out to “touch” their audience are able to make a powerful human connection. How do they do it? By getting their whole body involved.
You already know that your voice can be your most important presentation tool. How can you use it most effectively?
- Maintain a conversational tone
- Project to fill the room, whether it’s a ballroom or a conference room
- Use your voice to emotionally connect with your listeners, making use of vocal inflection, pauses and pacing to make your point
- Make listeners feel as if you are talking to each person, individually
By taking a page from the AT&T playbook to “reach out and touch someone,” it’s easy to ensure that your message has the same effectiveness and staying power as this memorable ad campaign!