Books and scales of justice

Mindful presenting isn’t a new age fad. It’s not about ‘chilling out’, cushions or candles. It’s not even about meditation.

Mindful presenting is about awareness. It’s designed to:

– Challenge the status quo of long, boring, and forgettable business presentations.

– Help professionals to craft and deliver presentations with clarity of purpose, real value and high impact.

– Create an emotional as well as intellectual connection with audiences.

– Shatter the old-fashioned idea that our job as presenters is to simply ‘inform and engage’ our audience.

The world has changed and continues to change at an unprecedented velocity.

Mindful presenting provides the platform to successful communication in the belief that regardless of the complexity or nature of our content our ultimate challenge is to connect with our audience.

‘The 21 Indisputable Laws of Mindful Presenting’ and the use of the word ‘laws’ may sound a little excessive. Before dismissing the idea as overzealous, please keep in mind that if we do not adhere to a ‘law’ there will be consequences; often negative ones.

LAW 1 – You must feel something

“There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.” Mark Twain

If you’re one of the lucky ones you may feel excited, if you’re not, you will feel nervous to some degree. There is considerable evidence that tells us that there are a vast number of people who feel uncomfortable about giving a presentation or speaking in public. The University of Pittsburgh suggests that, ‘Most people experience some level of speech anxiety when they have to speak in front of a group; in fact, public speaking is many people’s greatest fear. Speech anxiety can range from a slight feeling of “nerves” to a nearly incapacitating fear.’

At Mindful Presenter we would go as far as to suggest that if you don’t feel something when you are called on to speak, then you would probably serve your audience better by declining the opportunity.

The first law of Mindful Presenting is that its perfectly normal to feel some degree of nerves when presenting. If you resist the law you will struggle. Our challenge is to accept it and find a way to use it to our advantage.

There is no ‘silver bullet’, pill, potion or miraculous hack to defy the first law; the solution is mindful presenting,

LAW 2 – Your audience must feel something

I don’t mean bored, lethargic, numb or indifferent.

There is a long standing and extremely damaging myth doing great harm in many businesses today. It’s a belief that our sole purpose when presenting to others is to simply inform and engage them; it’s an illusion. We live in world where most of us are already so overwhelmed by information that we have become desensitised to it. Unless it’s highly relevant, personal and of some tangible value to us it’s the last thing we need. If it doesn’t help us in some specific way then it’s just more ‘noise’.

What do we do with ‘noise’? We filter and forget most of it.

I agree with the communication theorist, coach and a speaker Nick Morgan who says, ‘Recent brain research confirms that the way memory works is by attaching emotion to events. The stronger the emotion, the stronger the memory. So bland just doesn’t cut it if you want to be remembered.’

If you choose to deny or ignore Law 2 you will suffer the consequence at the expense of your audience. The solution is to craft your presentation with a very clear intention; how do you want your audience to feel. I’ve written about this extensively on the Mindful Presenter blog page but here is one of my favourites; The 5 Most Important Words in Business Presenting.

LAW 3 – Connecting is everything

At our presentation skills training courses and one to one public speaking coaching sessions our message is clear; we all need to stop presenting and start connecting.

We believe that our success as a presenter, speaker, or leader revolves largely around our ability to connect with others.

Almost 7 decades ago, the American psychologist, Abraham Maslow proposed ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’. It’s a theory which remains extremely popular and extensively used today. Describing the pattern through which he believed human motivations generally move he cited the need for interpersonal relationships as a basic human need. Mindful presenting exemplifies that belief and presents it as a law; we call it connecting.

If we don’t connect ourselves and our ideas well to our audience, you could argue that the presentation was futile.

Here are 10 tips on how to connect with your audience.

LAW 4 – Your role is to influence

At the core of every presentation is information. Our audience need information to guide their thinking and to make decisions. In business presentations, information can normally be read at the comfort of your own desk. It can be digested in the knowledge that if you don’t understand something you can always phone or email the author. You don’t need to attend a presentation to simply receive information. With that awareness our job as presenters is much harder; we have to influence.

Influence beliefs, change, action or simply mindsets; we have to influence our audience.

To achieve that goal our content has to be rich, relevant and rewarding. We also need to understand what it will take to influence our audience in terms of not only what we say but the way we say it.

At the heart of influence is the word ‘yes’; that’s what we want our audience to think and say about our idea.

Dr Robert Cialdini’s ‘Six principles of influence’, shares some powerful universal principles which we can use in our role as presenters. I’ve shared some simple tips on how to use these principles when presenting in a previous article. ‘The A to Z of Mindful Presenting: P – Persuasion’.

LAW 5 – People don’t follow others back accident

The fifth law relates to respect. Today’s audiences are time poor, solution hungry and more discerning than ever. If we don’t respect them in every sense of the word, then our presentation will fail under the banner of mindlessness rather than mindfulness.

Mindful presenting extends respect to our audience’s:

– Time

– Knowledge

– Feelings

– Beliefs

– Attitudes

– Needs

– Challenges

– Anxieties

– Aspirations

There are countless ways of course to show respect for others and I’m confident that you will find some in this list of 99 that you will serve you well for your next presentation.

The mindful presenter will reflect very carefully on everything they respect in a speaker or presenter and begin by adopting those same attitudes and behaviours.

Here are 9 of my personal favourite ways of respecting my audience; ‘Mindful Presenting – 9 Ways to RESPECT your Audience’.

LAW 6 – ‘Less is more’

If you are struggling to accept this principle as a law of mindful presenting try:

– Presenting to your audience for 30 minutes when you could have done so in 10.

– Putting 14 bullet points on a slide and watching your audience’s reaction.

– Showing your audience a plethora of numbers or slide after slide of charts.

– Telling your audience, a story that is long, irrelevant and boring.

– Sharing information, insights or ideas which has little personal relevance or value to your audience.

I read an article recently called ‘These 3 Issues Make People Forget Up to 90 Percent of Your Presentation’ which suggested that an audience will remember:

  • 60 percent of your presentation after 20 minutes
  • 40 percent of your presentation within half a day
  • 10 percent within a week

My personal and professional experience tells me that those numbers appear quite generous. Most business presentations I have attended in my corporate career I have forgotten by the time I’ve returned to my desk or my car.

The solution is to be mercenary with your content and only give your audience what they need and want to know that will make a difference to them. Everything else they will forget anyway.

Here are 4 tips which will help you to apply Law 5 effectively: ‘Most presentations are far too long – Less really is more!’

The 6 Laws

I’m mindful of the fact that I’ve taken a significant risk in naming this article ‘The 6 Indisputable Laws of Mindful Presenting’. The word ‘law’ in this context alone may be enough to raise a few eyebrows. Calling them ‘indisputable’ of course opens up another controversial challenge for some.

We live in a world of social media where many people make it their business to dispute a great deal, which of course can be quite healthy and appropriate.

That said my request before challenging these ‘laws’ is that you firstly craft and deliver a presentation to professionals which:

– You have absolutely no feeling about or for.

– Doesn’t leave your audience feeling anything at all.

– You haven’t made a connection with them.

– You haven’t influenced them in anyway.

– You haven’t respected them.

– You’ve taken far too long to get to the point

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