Do you find yourself being called on to present to smart people? I don’t mean people with an IQ of over 140, I mean the rest of us. The world is full of smart people. You can be certain that the next time you present they will be sitting right in front of you. They look just like you and I so it’s hard to tell them apart from those you may perceive to be not so smart, even when they speak.
The word ‘smart’ means different things to different people so for the purpose of this article let me share mine. Smart people:
Trust their instincts
Have common sense
Challenge the status quo
The first thing smart people want from their presenter is to believe that they are smart too. In other words, they will be on the lookout for many of these characteristics during the presentation.
Here’s how to present to smart people:
1. Let them in
Give people a sense of the real you. Share with them how you think and why you think that way. Give them some insight into why you feel the way you do and care about the topic you are presenting on. Who are you? What do you stand for and why should they care?
It’s called self-disclosure and according to Jack Schafer Ph.D in Psychology Today, ‘People feel a sense of closeness to others who reveal their vulnerabilities, innermost thoughts, and facts about themselves.’
2. Enthuse and align them
Once you have absolute clarity of your objective and intention give them your energy. Your objective is what you want your audience to do with information you are sharing and your intention is how you want them to feel about it. Stay upbeat, focus on the opportunity, project positivity and set out to connect with your audience rather than present to them.
The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm. – Aldous Huxley
3. Watch your language
Whilst words matter a great deal, so too do the way you express them physically. Smart people see and hear beyond the words they feel your body language too. Speak with your hands, make eye contact, stand tall and move well. If you want your audience to feel excited tell your face to be excited too.
Dr. Travis Bradberry, the award-winning co-author of the bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0 suggests that the ‘perception of competence has a strong foundation in body language.’
4. Build Trust
Trust is fundamental to connecting with smart people.
Get to know your audience long before you present to them. Reach out to them to before you speak to find out who they are and how they feel. Be transparent; don’t hide behind the ‘corporate spokesperson’. Make them a promise about how your presentation will help them and make sure you keep it.
‘If people like you, they’ll listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.’ Zig Ziglar
5. Show them the future
Whether you are presenting for 20 minutes or 2 hours your job is to help your audience to see the future. Use metaphors, examples and paint pictures in their minds of what the future will look like for them if they embrace your ideas.
Give them the detail but don’t forget the big picture. The clearer the image you conjure in their minds, the less doubt, dissent or confusion there will be.
Everyone understands the importance of a company vision. An article published in inc.com suggests that ‘When team members believe in the vision of a company, they are much more likely to tie their individual values to that shared vision.’
When your audience believes in your vision, they are far more likely to act.
6. Get in touch
Mindful presenters understand that before they can connect with their audience, they have to connect with themselves first. Today we call it emotional intelligence.
Before you stand to present become aware of how you are feeling, physically, mentally and emotionally. Recognise how these feelings are helping or hindering you and have the courage to exercise self-control. Stand tall, take deep breaths, smile and plant your feet firmly on the ground beneath you. Get in touch with yourself before you try to reach out to your audience.
Remind yourself of your intention and how far you have come to be privileged enough to express it.
To present to smart people you need a high level of awareness.
7. Silence the imposter
That feeling that you are just not good enough and have no right to be taking up the valuable time of such smart people is a painful one. It even has its own name; imposter syndrome. Mindful presenters know that it can affect all of us at times and that no one is completely exempt, especially when we are called on to present to smart people.
Stop comparing yourself to other presenters.
Find out what you are good at as a speaker and focus on that.
Listen to your negative self-talk and challenge it.
8. Prepare mindfully
In a previous article I wrote called ‘Presentation Skills and the Mind’ I suggested that, if you are called on to present, ‘There are no shortcuts when it comes to preparation.’
Smart people can spot the unprepared presenter the moment they begin to speak.
Preparation starts with:
Having a crystal-clear message.
Knowing your audience and yourself.
Crafting compelling content to support your message.
Internalising your message.
Practicing the verbal expression of your message – how you sound.
Practicing the non-verbal expression of your message – how you look.
9. Respect them
Effective presenters build their entire presentation on a platform of respect for their audience.
They respect their time – they don’t speak for 20 minutes if they can do so in 10.
They make sure that everything they say is relevant.
They respect their intelligence, knowledge and feelings.
In a previous article, I wrote called, 9 Ways to RESPECT your Audience I opened by saying, ‘Presenting is one of the greatest privileges any of us could experience.’ Holding that premise at the forefront of your mind when crafting your presentation will ensure you respect your audience.
10. Remember, you’re smart too
‘Wherever smart people work, doors are unlocked.’ Steve Wozniak
Don’t make the mistake of believing than anyone is smarter than you. The reason you have been asked to speak is that you have a level of knowledge, expertise or insight your audience doesn’t. You are no different to your audience in that you are equally equipped to:
Are open minded
Trust their instincts
Have common sense
Challenge the status quo
The only question is whether you choose to adopt and utilise these characteristics. Once you do so your challenge is to use these 10 tips to be interested in your audience and make your presentation interesting and personal to them.
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