The year 2006 was a big one for me, it was the year I decided to sit down and write down my thoughts on what I believe truly mattered.
Three years later those thoughts turned into a book called ‘Hamster to Harmony’ and it has since become my personal guide for every aspect of my life.
I wrote ‘Hamster to Harmony’ after deciding to step off of what I called the ‘hamster wheel’ of corporate life.
Today as the founder of a revolutionary presentation skills training and public speaking coaching business I realise that the words I wrote all of those years go could just as readily apply to public speaking and presentation skills.
To illustrate my point I believe it’s worth taking a look at a few chapters of ‘Hamster to Harmony’ and its relevance to public speaking.
Chapter 1: Guidance from a Hamster
“I remember asking myself and anyone who would listen to me the same question over and over again. The question was this: ‘How do some people get to be so lucky?’”
‘Luck’ seemed to be what I searched so hard for when I was a small boy before I realised that I was looking for the wrong thing. The question I should have been asking was ‘How do some people get to be successful?’
Many people believe that success is something you are born with, just as many think that great public speakers and presenters are born with the gift of being able to speak eloquently with power and impact.
Of course, deep down we all know that’s not true.
If you aspire to be a great presenter the only question you need to ask and then study is ‘What does it take to be a great speaker?’
To help you on your journey you don’t need the guidance of a hamster as I did you just need a good presentation skills coach.
Chapter 2: Stop your wheel
‘To stop your wheel you must decide to stop sleepwalking your way through life and to stop, stand back and take a long hard look at who you are and where you are, and to then truly wake up and live a more conscious life.’
Millions of presentations are given in businesses across the world every single day. Many of them are dull and uninspiring purely because professionals are so busy being busy that it’s far easier to do what they always do and what everyone else does.
To begin to answer the question, ‘What does it take to be a great speaker?’ you have to ‘stop your wheel’. In other words, you need to stop doing what you’ve always done and get some open and honest feedback as to what works for you today as a presenter and what doesn’t work so well.
If you keep doing what you’ve always done you will keep getting the same results.
Chapter 3: Wake up
‘Ask the real you what’s missing and what if anything is in your way. Take a few minutes to do this with each area of your life.’
It’s only when you’ve stopped your wheel that you find yourself truly awake enough to ask yourself what’s missing? It’s the same when it comes to presenting. When we ‘wake up’ and take a long, hard and honest look at the way we communicate with others we get to see:
How we use our voice
How we gesture and move our bodies
How we make eye contact
How we tell stories
How creative we are
How passionate we are
How we connect
Chapter 4: Ask yourself 3 questions
‘The challenge is to be brutally honest with yourself on all three questions’
In ‘Hamster to Harmony’ I challenge readers to ask themselves three of the most important questions they are likely to ever ask. Answering them with complete honesty is not for the faint-hearted but is crucial to a life of harmony and success.
I have 3 very different but equally important questions for you as a presenter or public speaker.However, to answer them you need to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and see things from their perspective:
Do I trust and like this speaker?
Does the speaker really understand and care about me?
Will my personal or professional life be better for listening to them?
Chapter 5: Decide your purpose
“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” Carl Jung
I believe that anyone who takes the platform to speak in public or present to others has the same purpose: ‘to kindle a light’
In my experience far too many business presentations lack clear purpose.
‘A quarterly update’, ‘project review’ or ‘team briefing’ isn’t a clear purpose.
To ‘kindle a light’ in your audience you have to be clear on the two key elements that will give your presentation purpose.
- What you want them to do the moment you finish speaking?
- How you want them to feel?
Chapter 6: Finish your story and move on
‘We all like a good story and in fact when we were small children we loved them, we couldn’t get enough of them.’
In the book, I explain how many of us have a story which can severely hold us back in life and there comes a time when we need to let go of that story and move on.
My advice for presenters and public speakers with regard to storytelling is quite different; don’t move on until you’ve told one. Stories add meaning and context to a presentation.
They capture our imagination and help us to connect with our audience emotionally as well as intellectually.
Chapter 7: Choose and decide wisely
‘Through our thoughts we can not only radically change our own lives we can also change the lives of those around us and even the whole world.’
Public speaking anxiety is a major issue for countless professionals regardless of their age, position or experience. Much of that paralysing nervousness comes from the thoughts we choose to hold in our minds about presenting to an audience.
Some people tell me that their negative thoughts aren’t chosen, they are completely involuntary. I understand that perspective of course but I believe that we do have the choice to decide which of our thoughts to hold on to, repeat and believe.
Here are just a few of the countless negative thoughts some presenters play over and over again in their minds.
‘What if they don’t like me?
‘What if I forget my words?’
‘What if I freeze?’
It doesn’t have to be that way; you really do have a choice.
Chapter 8 – Use your 6 gifts
‘As well as five incredible gifts of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch… we each have access to six other extremely precious gifts that we rarely think about.’
Let’s relate the 6 gifts I refer to in the book to public speaking and presenting.
Perception: When you look at yourself as a speaker what do you really see? Most people focus on their bad habits and very few stop to really see where there strengths are. When you look at your audience what do you see? Do you see ‘predators’, critics or judges or do you see mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters?
In other words, do you see an audience of human beings just like you?
Imagination: How do you use yours and help your audience to use theirs? Do you tell stories, use compelling slides, descriptive language?
Do you read from bullet points as many presenters still do or do you dare to be different?
Will: Will is the ability we each have to focus on something at the exclusion of all other distractions. What do you focus on and what do you want your audience to focus on?
Memory: If your audience could only remember one thing from your presentation what do you want them to remember?
Reason: Your audience wants you to connect with them emotionally but they will also insist on you helping them to make sense of your presentation through reason. They want the facts, evidence and logic too.
Intuition: If you want to speak dynamically with your audience you need to be able to tune into your own intuition.
Are they still engaged?
Am I focused on them rather than my own performance?
Does this feel right?
‘Hamster to harmony’ isn’t a book about presenting; it’s a book about how to get better results in life. Given that most of our results are achieved through the way we communicate with ourselves and others it is no real surprise when reading it 10 years later that I see so much synergy with what I teach today in public speaking and presenting.
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