High impact presenting isn’t something you see in most businesses every day. We do however have an opportunity to dramatically transform the way we speak and connect with each other in business in a far more powerful way.
Mindful presenting offers the pathway to the art of persuasion, influencing and human connection. It is the strategic key to communicating effectively and the route to high impact presenting.
I’ve long believed that we live in a world in which the only sustainable route to personal and professional contentment and success is our voice. We each have two voices; our inner dialogue and, of course, the one others can hear.
Much of our advancement revolves around how we get others to see things from our point of view and our ability to win people over to our way of thinking. Whether you are trying to gain support for an idea, diffuse an emotional charge, deal with opposition or even change the world in some way, you need to be able to communicate with clarity and impact.
Many people think that presenting is something reserved for those who have to speak to clients and colleagues using PowerPoint. I learned as a small boy growing up in a large family with 3 sisters and two brothers that the need to persuade, influence and connect is our greatest challenge long before we enter the workplace.
That said, given that most people associate the challenge with presenting their ideas at work here are 12 of the major powers available to each of us when presenting to ensure our success.
1. Focus on your ‘M’ Point
Your ‘M’ Point is your personal moment of truth.
Before we even begin to craft our presentation we need to have absolute clarity on what we want from our audience after we have delivered our message. In other words, what exactly is it that we what them to think, feel and do the moment we finish speaking.
Focusing on your ‘M’ point requires you to spend a great deal of time and conscious thought to your motivation for calling people together in the first place and their motivation for turning up.
What do you want them to think, feel and do?
2. ‘ Perception is reality’
I believe that it was the great Albert Einstein who said, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”
Once we have absolute clarity on exactly what we want our audience to think, feel and do we need to very carefully consider their reality. In other words, how do they see things, do we share common ground on our perspectives, if not then why and what’s different?
How much do they know already?
Why should they care?
How will your message help them and what difference will it make?
Have they heard it all before and if so what’s so different and special about your way of thinking?
How do they literally think and feel about the topic and your message and how do you know?
What are they doing now that you want them to change, what’s stopping them and why would your words make any difference?
3. Spot the weakness
Never make the assumption that just because you think that your idea or message is a good one, or indeed the right one for your audience, that they will too. Discerning professionals have no time or patience for the arrogant presenter who expects them to hang on to and believe every word they say simply because they’ve said it.
They need to be certain that you understand their reality and have considered in great detail the potential flaws in your message and why elements may be considered weak or inappropriate. It’s our job as presenters to spot the weaknesses before our audience does and present them transparently with thoughtful answers and solutions. Your audience won’t forgive you for making them do the work that you should have done for them.
4. Leave your ego at your desk
One of the many reasons that most of us would rather do anything else but sit through another presentation at work is because we don’t have time for big egos. ‘Look at me, look how hard I work, how clever I am and how much I know.’
The fact is that no one really cares about you. What matters the most to them is whether what you have to say is of value to them and will make any difference to their lives. Make sure that everything you say, show and do is personal, relevant and of value to your audience. In other words, make your presentation entirely about them and not about yourself.
5. Make the first 5 minutes count
Don’t behave like a comedian by saving your punchline to the end. Let your audience know as quickly as you can why you’ve called them together, why they will be glad they came and how you can help them. Please don’t start by telling them how many offices you have and how many widgets you make each year.
Don’t try to impress them, try this instead:
Make them feel at ease
Capture their interest and curiosity immediately; you already have their attention.
6. Stop the noise
‘What if they don’t like me?
What if they know more than I do?
What happens if I forget what to say?
What if they ask me a question I can’t answer?
These may be valid questions to ask, but the wrong place to ask them is when you are standing right in front of your audience and are just about to speak. Each time you have such a thought and ask yourself one of these debilitating questions you are doing your audience a disservice. In essence it means that your body is in the room but your mind isn’t. They came to listen to your mind not stare at your outfit.
We each have our own personal level of noise and our challenge is to stop that level of thought long before we stand to speak. Spend a few minutes just before you present taking a few slow deep breaths or meditating to slow down the noise.
The moment you stand to speak take a deep breath, pause, smile, feel your feet grounded to the floor and let those troublesome thoughts float away like clouds.
Your audience want you in the room; all of you.
7. Be quiet
Another of the presenter’s greatest gift is the use of the pause. Unfortunately many speakers find that a moment of silence feels like an eternity to them in their mind. The reality is that most of us speak much faster than our audiences can listen and they want little more from us than to slow down and to pause briefly every now and then.
Silence is not only a powerful force but it is a presenter’s ally. Those who have the mindfulness and courage to use it wisely are always received well by their audience. Inherent within its power is a signal to our audience that if it’s something that you are comfortable with then you must be comfortable with yourself.
8. Know it in 90
When it comes to presenting, the theory that ‘less is more’ is an extremely valuable and recommended one. The Mindful Presenter invests a great deal of time, energy and effort getting to know their message inside and out to the point that they could, if asked to, deliver it in 90 seconds.
Make a point of knowing your message by being able to share it with clarity, impact and power in 90 seconds or less. Please don’t misunderstand my point here. I’m not talking about delivering any of your presentations to a real audience in 90 seconds. My suggestion is that if you practice focusing on your message with laser like clarity and purpose in under 90 seconds then when you have the gift of time to do so in 20 minutes everything comes together more easily.
9. Assume nothing
In the process of crafting your presentation don’t make any assumptions:
Don’t assume that just because you know what you are talking about that your audience will too.
Don’t assume that just because you believe in what you are saying that they should too.
Don’t assume that they are familiar with your choice and use of language, keep it simple.
In the process of delivering your presentation don’t make any assumptions:
Don’t assume that just because someone yawns or looks at their watch that they are bored. If they are all constantly looking at their watch and yawning then you know they are bored.
Don’t assume that they’ve understood you, check in with them.
Don’t assume that just because no one asks a question that they don’t have any; have a few ready yourself to share and encourage them to open up.
10. Show them, don’t just tell them
Anyone can give a presentation with varying levels of confidence and clarity. Far too many professionals make the mistake of thinking that all they have to do is tell their audience what’s on the slides or on their script and they have given a good presentation.
The power of presenting lies in not telling your audience anything, but showing them everything instead. In other words, bring your presentation to life.
Make sure that your words are completely congruent with the way you express them both verbally and non-verbally. That means:
Making effective eye contact
Using your voice by adjusting your tone, volume, pitch and pace,
Using hand gestures
Moving meaningfully to own the platform
Being facially expressive
Speaking with passion and conviction
11. Scan your body
For many people the very thought of having to stand and present their ideas to others can create a great deal of anxiety which can turn into tension in the body.
Whatever level of tension or anxiety you may feel when presenting we owe it to ourselves and our audience to bring awareness and acknowledgement to where we feel it in our body.
In their brilliant book, ‘Mindfulness: A practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world’, Danny Penman and Mark Williams offer an extremely powerful audio which teaches us how to scan our own bodies.
I’ve include the meditation in the YouTube video below.
12. Choose a word and a number
Remember your ‘M’ point?
Once you’ve decided how you want your audience to feel, the most important way to help them to feel it is to feel it yourself.
You can’t expect people to feel passion or excitement if you don’t feel it yourself. You have to live the feeling first so that they can see, hear and experience it in you.
Saying that you are excited or passionate isn’t enough and sometimes we have to make ourselves feel it. Practicing the following exercise will help you learn to instantly tune in to the emotion you want your audience to feel.
Choose the emotion very carefully.
Imagine that emotion on a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 represents every part of you being filled with that emotion at its highest level.
Decide how much you want to feel of that emotion yourself, in other words choose a number.
Use your imagination to hold in mind what that emotion looks, sounds and feels like in your experience and be that number.
If you haven’t yet been called on to give a presentation at work then don’t worry your time will come. When it does happen then be sure to call on these 12 powers. They will help you to connect with your audience in a way that you will both be extremely thankful for.