Proven Tips for Making Presentations that Connect

Delivering Presentations that Make Unique Connections

Mark W. Hardwick, Ph.D.

 

Lecturing remains one of the more popular methods to transmit information and ideas by teachers, trainers and speakers.  As students and audience participants we are quite familiar with the approach.  Lectures can be informative, boring and overwhelming depending on the compelling nature of the message and the presenter’s style and clarity of message.  The lecture method usually is one-way communication and allows for little or none audience participation. The result is audience misunderstanding, loss of information and poor retention.

 

Research reported by Ralph Nichols, distinguished communication professor at the University of Minnesota, reports that listening is a learned skill.  His research findings indicate that most people forget fifty percent of what is said in the first two minutes, and twenty-five percent after eight minutes, and can retain the rest of the information only for about a month.  To retain more information participants need to use active listening skills, try to anticipate where the presenters’ lecture is going and get an opportunity to interact with the material.  In addition a study conducted by the U.S. Department of HEW, showed that we retain only 10-25% of what we hear after a thirty –day period. The lower the interaction the lower the retention. Given this information what are the reasons that so many presenters still prefer the lecture method?  And how can we improve the effectiveness of lectures?

 

Some presenters prefer one-way communication methods, such as lecturing, because they can transmit large amounts of information to audiences in a short period of time. Presenters find lectures efficient because the flow of information can be directed and controlled with greater precision.

 

On the other hand, from the receivers’ point of view they experience one-way communication as being “talked at” rather than being “communicated with”. Listeners find it difficult to figure out where the speaker is going and to focus attention unless they are provided a roadmap for the lecture. The audience has little or no opportunity to get involved or provide feedback on the messages being communicated.

 

The question becomes how do we capture listeners’ attention and provide methods and tools to help them understand the presenter’s lecture?  We must develop techniques and messages that are perceived as involving participants and providing opportunities for interaction.

 

How do you do this as a lecturer?  By creatively modifying your approach to pay more attention to how adults listen, learn, and absorb new information and ideas.  At the end of the day, a presenter must focus on the needs of the audience rather than on what they want to present.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Approaches and Techniques for Winning Presentations in a New Age:

 

  1. Structuring presentation—Effective presenters provide roadmaps for their speech. They design and present lectures that are well-organized and easy to follow.  There’s an “attention grabber” for the opening, a preview of what is ahead and three or four chunks of information that make-up the body of the presentation, and a closing that summarizes important content, information and key messages. Exceptional closings let participants know where they have been and “wave the flag” and passionately call for action.

 

  1. Repetition and restatement of critical information and the significant overriding message for the presentation. Effective lectures use multiple and clear examples to illustrate the critical information.  They keep the learning goal “top of the mind” and provide clear and concise information.  Effective presenters always try to see their message from the audience point of view.  A technique, which helps, is to ask—What is in it for the audience to pay attention and how can they use this information back home to make their worklife more fulfilling and satisfying?

 

  1. Make the presentation appear to be interactive, engaging and a conversation not a one-way monologue.
    • Provide individual reflection/think time, encourage pairing-up with another participants to exchange ideas and then share perceptions with larger audience
    • Ask rhetorical questions
    • Survey the audience with powerful trigger questions
    • Provide a partial outline of the lecture to help align audience thinking and tracking the presentation
    • Feed forward structuring message; for example, these three points are critical
    • Stimulus prompts; these are three important diagnostic factors for determining risks of heart attack_______, ________ and ________.

 

  1. Use the make me feel important (MMFI) rule to find unique ways to connect with the audience. Create a psychological safe climate by building closeness and openness of participants. You do this by using people’s names, nodding your head, looking people in the eye with one thought rather than scanning the room.  Use natural gestures, which are experienced as inviting; for example open hands rather than pointing a finger.

 

 

  1. Use analogies to express your message and create understanding. The human brain is use to dealing with visual images and tying new ideas to information already known. The dictionary defines analogy “as a likeness in one or more ways between things otherwise unlike.”  The analogy is one of the most powerful communication techniques and yet it is the least used form of evidence for speakers. One of the main reasons for it’s under use is that the development of an analogy takes imagination and creativity by the presenter to tie the analogy to the main goal of the presentation and to listener’s interests and needs. For example: Exercising every day is as hard as saving money, but it pays off in the long run.

                   

 

 

                   

  1. Statistical and factual evidence. In a technical presentation statistics are the most frequently used form of evidence.  Unfortunately, numbers and facts can over load the listener’s ability to process and retain information.  When using graphs and visual support explain each bit of information and build the slide one idea at a time.  To strengthen credibility, state whom conducted the research and their credentials.

 

  1. Story Telling. Your experience or others experience related by means of a story is a form of evidence because it gives the listener tangible evidence and illustrates the viewpoint of the speaker.  The communicator’s personal self-disclosure and involvement through stories brings the evidence to life; first-person life. Story telling helps make your presentation believable and conveys your human side.

 

  1. Examples make the information concrete and tangible. Examples can take ideas from the theoretical to the practical.  Because of the massive misquotes and misuse of statistics, even examples have become automatically suspect by many listeners.

 

  1. Communicate in common and understood language. Often presenters out of habit, comfort and sometimes to demonstrate their expertise use professional jargon and lose the audience.  Do not assume that listeners understand complex technical language.  If you need to use technical language, provide definitions or a glossary handout to facilitate communication.  In order to facilitate impact and effectiveness of presentations it is important to keep your language clear, concise and compelling.  Remember your goal is to connect with the audience and impart information and ideas listeners can use to their benefit.

 

Summary

It is important to remember that the single overriding goal of a presentation is to provide meaningful content in an entertaining and engaging way so that participants focus their attention, understand material and are receptive to implementing new ideas back on the job.  The whole preparation, presentation and content of a lecture must therefore be directed not to the speaker but to the audience needs and wants.  I encourage you to try some of the above interventions so that your lectures may be perceived as more of a two-way communication by using more interactive exchanges, experiential exercises and stories that will make your presentations more memorable and your message relevant.

 

 

Want to give Audience-Centered Presentation? Learn these 3 skills.

Exploring Empathy, Responsiveness and Relevance as keys to Audience-Centered Presentation
Daily Quote: ” Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.”  Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence  
The R.A.T.E.R. is a useful tool to measure your ability to be Audience-Center in presenting or public speaking. Your ability to see and relate to, understand and respect the inner world of others, doesn’t mean agreeing with the other person’s perceived experience . For many, empathy is what I’ll call a touchy-feely word. “It’s all about feeling and relating to what others feel , isn’t it? – being compassionate. Does that really have any place in the hard-nosed world of business? One of the problems with empathy is that it is often confused with being ‘soft’ – overly sensitive, compassionate and even emotionally “mushy” or sentimental. It can be associated with tolerating bad performance or bad behavior, which is probably more to do with avoiding conflict than empathy.

Let’s be clear, empathy is simply the ability to comprehend and be respectful of the inner state/experience of others, it does not mean agreeing with the other person’s perceived experience or condoning the actions they take based on their interpretations. It is also not just limited to understanding another’s feelings. Empathy includes an ability to identify and articulate another’s perspective, expectations, wants and needs. Great communicators are empathic because they try to see the world through the eyes of their audience. By doing so they show respect and caring for their audience and when people feel respect they respond. There is an old saying, “I don’t care about what you know until I know that you care.”

As an empathic presenter you need to be  self-aware and sensitive to how their own behavior impacts others.  Empathy is outward and inward looking. Learn to be responsive and respectful as a presenter by identifying audience needs and being “quick on your feet” to provide relevant examples and tell engaging stories about your ideas. Show respect and and empathy your audience will respond in kind.

Self-Coaching Challenge: To get at this topic in short form, I’d ask you to take this self-evaluation to score yourself on a scale of 10, where 1 is awful and 10 is being masterful as a presenter in crafting and demonstrating empathy, relevance and responsiveness toward the audience members.  What follows are three questions about empathy. How do you stack-up?

1. Empathy is Item #1 I work-in to my message when presenting to others? _____

2. I am a full-fledged student of empathy, aiming for the same level of “professional mastery and excellence” that I’d aim for in a specialty like Human Resources, Brand Marketing, Finance or Business Strategy____________.

3. I stop at different times during my presentation to see how the audience is taking–in or understanding my message ________.

 

 

 

 

Stuck on How to Design Your next Speech? Use the proven Design Framework Called R.A.T.E.R.

 

” A presentation is a sequence of concrete examples and stories that snap together to form a compelling argument…If you use only one tip, this is the one. The #1 mistake we’ve observed in presentations—and there is no close second—is that the message is too abstract. The presenter offers concepts and conclusions but not evidence. He talks at a high level about the big picture, but gives no concrete details that might make the big picture understandable and plausible. He may sprinkle in a few stories or examples, but they are treated like garnish. Most people communicate
with, say, 3 parts exposition to 1 part example. That’s exactly backwards. In a compelling presentation, examples aren’t garnish, they’re the entrée”. Heath Brothers from the article Presentations Made to Stick 

As a speaker and communicator, you are the one who is shooting the “free throw to win” the game. You must “stick it” to win. You must have the right mindset, relaxed muscles and arc to make the shot.  Every single day, you are delivering messages and trying  to make ideas stick and persuade others to change or behave in a certain way.  So how do you connect with and make messages stick? Trying using the R.A.T.E.R. 

  • RESPONSIVEchallenge your audience with something new or ideas they can use. Be responsive to their interest and needs. Answer questions as they are asked. Do not put people off by saying, ” I will answer it later”. Be “quick on your feet” and adapt to audience interest and needs. If you are not sure you are meeting their expectations ask them. For example, how are we doing here? Is this information meeting your expectations? If not change directions. Don’t ignore the disinterested looks or signs of boredom.
  • ASSURANCE- provide credible information and examples of idea or solution benefits and how it has worked in the past. Use powerful examples and stories to assure audience that your message has importance to their situation the ideas being presented are credible.
  • TANGIBLES-bring concrete ideas and provide pragmatic examples or metaphors that make the ideas less abstract. Avoid generalizations and professional jargon. Make message clear, concise and concrete. This is the spot to provide demonstrations or if possible physical prototypes, so audience members can see and touch what you are talking about.
  • EMPATHY-Show the audience that you care and understand their problems, skepticism, views  and ideas. Obviously, presenting facts and evidence in your speech are important, but connecting with the audience requires both empathy and an emotional message.
  • RELEVANT  information needs to be presented along with pragmatic audience-centered solutions and ideas that raise the audience members curiosity and interest in what you have to say. In addition, try to sprinkle your speech with supportive evidence and stories showing the benefits, viability and urgency of  your ideas so that attitudes can be changed and action initiated to improve their quality of life.

Part II: Connecting With Your Audience: Be Caring, Authentic and Responsive

Playbook for “Presenting to Win”

Daily Quote: They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. Carl Buechner

In a world where communication effectiveness is the critical key to success for team and interpersonal interactions–many of us do not spend enough time on improving our people skills. In essence, my vision is to change the world of presentation one performance and one person at a time. The way I teach it varies from engagement to engagement and person to person. Some of my teaching is one on one coaching, sometimes in small groups and some times to large audience trying to model and demonstrate effective engagement and connection strategies and tactics.

My Presenter’s Playbook to Win: Includes but is not limited to the following principles:

1. Embrace the challenge of the presentation and opportunity to show your best.

2. Trust and believe in your message and ability to deliver it in a memorable way.

3. Get out of worrying about acceptance and results and into the process of connecting with the audience

4. Be audience-centered and focused not self-centered and arrogant.

5. Be prepared to accept surprises and be confident that nothing will upset you on the platform.

6.  Learn to be flexible and open and ready to change at any moment by reading your audience and listening for non-verbal feedback

7. Don’t just “wing it”  learn to love planning, design and deliberative practice.

8.. Love your message and audience–don’t effort or try so hard be authentic. Learn to be in the moment and play to your natural strengths

9. Respect audience attention span and learning capacity.–Don’t over load them with facts , figures and information

10. Remember — Perfection is a killer to spontaneity so be  present in the moment and  have fun doing it. Be audience -centered by being responsive, caring, and saying things that are relevant and interesting to the audience.

Part 1: Audience-Centered Design for Presentations

” Unless you try to understand the person you are speaking to, you will be seen as irrelevant and unresponsive to their interest and needs”. M.W. Hardwick  

Think of designing your presentations like choosing a Christmas gift.  I love to unwind at the end of the day with a bourbon and water. However, my wife, does not like most hard liquor drinks. Yet she loves wine, so a wine-of-the-month club membership would be a great gift for her. Think of designing your presentations from the this same point of view. Stop focusing on yourself and what you like and want to give the audience and shift your thinking to focus more on what the audience needs and wants. This approach highlights two critical variables of the R.A.T.E.R. presentation development model ( relevance. responsiveness). Building in this type of design thinking makes your speech or presentation more relevant and responsive to audience members needs and problems in their daily life’s.

For your next “big” Presentation Test your Message for “stickiness”?

Framework for “Sticky Messages”

” Remember that to create a “sticky idea”  it needs to be understood, remembered, and it changes something”. Heath Brothers

There are a number of tests to check that you have created a memorable and believable message. The main test of success in delivering a key message is that you commit it to memory. This will increase the perception by audience members of your credibility. Do this your main task is to be able to communicate your message with passion and clarity without your notes. Test yourself.

Then say it to a colleague – see if they can say it back to you. You may find that they say it back to you in a way which is easier to grasp. In which case change it.

An hour later, ask members of your presentation review team to listen and give you feedback on how memorable and relevant your key message is to the overall topic being discussed.  Ask the team the next day if they remember the “sticky” message. If they can still remember it a day later, well done – you have got yourself a memorable sticky, relevant and believable message.

Check your message against these two standards–the RATER developed by Dr. Hardwick and SUCCESs model developed by Heath brothers in their book–Made to Stick

Want to Make Your first Step Toward Effective Public Speaking? Try these 3 Proven Methods.

“Unique connections, even if there are 1 or 500 people in your audience, are purposeful, personal, and passionate. Your message needs to be relevant and responsive to the audience needs and interest.” -Coach Mark

We all know that a lack of effective communication skills (public speaking) will seriously harm your career and relationship prospects. Whether you are a project manager, frontline employee, or CEO, your ability to communicate in a clear and compelling manner will be important component on how successful you will be. If you can not communicate and connect with your different shareholders your great ideas and intellect will not matter.  So how do you go about making a positive impression and gain credibility with any audience.

1.  Your audience will respond warmly if you remember to not just talk or lecture at them but find creative ways to connect and engage with them.

My first rule of sticky presentations is “NO Connection = NO Interest.”

This is plainly intuitive, if you have sat through a boring presentation, you disconnect because the presenter does not take your needs into consideration  and does not make the message relevant to your problems, needs and interest.  So the question is, “how to effectively connect with your audience?

a. The easiest way to create a connection is to meet as many people 1 to 1 before you walk on stage. Then, use some of the information you have gathered in your “meet and greet” conversations to salt into your opening remarks. This technique provides a valuable time for you to get to know people and gather information that makes your present come alive to the audience.

b. Create audience member engagement and involvement. Your audience does want to be a passive vessel for you to empty your message into; they want to be an active and engaged part of  your presentation. Right at the beginning of your presentation, pose a challenging question or use a quick activity like an audience survey to find out their needs and interest in your topic; this kind of activity always works because the audience now feels that you care about them and you have provided an opportunity for them to think about and provide input into the presentation design. This method provides content so that your message can be customized to their interests and questions.

The question or activity, must align with the audience members current reality, needs and issues to get and hold their attention. If I am presenting to a group that has been told, “You HAVE to be in attendance to receive CPE credits or other reasons. I might ask “What would they rather be doing  than be at this presentation?” Or I might ask the audience to tell another member what would make this a great presentation. After their short discussion I will conduct a shout out session to get some feedback on their discussions.

Having created some engagement through involvement we can link this to the subject of the presentation like this, “Knowing you are interested in “A”  let’s begin by discussing why “A” is important…”

My second rule of presentation skills is, “No Competence=No Confidence”  

I have seen competent people lack confidence in presenting and confident people lack competence (nothing is as dangerous as a confident fool!).

When coaching people to feel confident to present well, I use the Cognitive Behavioral Technique of Mental Rehearsal that when confronted with anxiety or performance confidence issues. This CBT technique encourages  finding a trigger of something you are already confident doing such as playing the piano, or shooting a foul shot in basketball etc. and tap into this past experience and feeling of confidence so that you can access this feeling in your mind and body before presenting. For some people this lack of confidence or anxiety about presenting is a “double bind” that we must feel some confidence to attempt to present well and only when we do this will we gain the competence; and with competence comes confidence! An effective presenter is also competent in the subject matter of their presentation. Sometimes this just means you are competent to share your perspective on a limited piece of information.

So when getting ready for your presentation learn everything you can about the topic and subject to be discussed by doubling the amount of prep and practice compared to the allocated length of your speech. For example, for a  1 hour speech put in at least three hours of prep and practice time.You may only speak about 10% of what you know but your competence will show when you can make your subject matter clear, concise and compelling.

This brings me to my third rule, “No Compelling Message No Memory or transfer by Audience to Action ”

People will only remember one or two or three points from your presentation, so plan your presentation so that those 2-3 points will stick with them. Techniques for making a point stick include:

  • Repetition – remember kinder garden and repeating your ABC’s over and over.
  • Gestures or Actions – get the knowledge from the mind into the body with a powerful physical trigger.
  • Visuals or Video – we live in a multimedia world so use powerful graphic or short videos to create a visual link to your sticky points.
  •  Story Telling– powerful personal stories engage the audience and are great memory triggers for your message.

So in Summary, here are my 3 Rules for Making Sticky and Effective Presentation Skills

1.  No Connection = No interest

2. No Competence =No Confidence

4. No Memorable Message = No Transfer to Action