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.

 

 

Loss Art of Elocution–Learn the 5 Critical Elements to Make better Audience Connections

Learning to be comfortable with strangers and friends alike means understanding and using the basics of effective communications. To differentiate yourself it is important for you to understand and practice elocution techniques which now are called body language or non-verbal communications. Unfortunately and over time elocution techniques which are more that good non-verbals are not being taught to most public speakers.

el•o•cu•tion

Pronunciation: (el”u-kyOO‘shun), [key]
n.
1. a person’s manner of speaking or reading aloud in public: The actor’s elocution is faultless.
2. the study and practice of oral delivery, including the control of both voice and gesture

Natural Expression of Thought by Speech and Gesture.

Natural tones are the tones of truth and honesty, of good sense and good taste. It is with them only that the understanding is successfully addressed; with them only that we can arouse and keep awake the intelligence of the listener, which is the object we always have in view, whether we speak our own language or that of another.

Critical Elements of elocution

  1. Attitude
  2. Speech Patterns
  3. Posture
  4. Hand Gestures
  5. Eyes Focus and Contact

Attitude or Mental Schema/Set

  • You are among friends who want you to succeed.
  • You are prepared.
  • You have covered every base.
  • You will survive.
  • It cannot be as bad as you expect!

Speech Patterns

 Use up and down inflection and eliminate sing song and monotone

Pick words you can pronounce—use common language to connect with audience

Punctuation is there for a purpose—pause

Raise your tone slightly

 Natural Posture

Stand up straight –right foot forward; feet 12 inches apart

Stand on your own two feet

Choose your space—and build a triangle for movement

Take a deep breath

Relax and use 10 second relaxation technique

Hand Gestures

An extension of posture and eye contact

Adds emphasis

Must not be distracting—be natural

To use gestures you cannot have other things in your hands

Practice, practice and practice

Rules to Present By–

Find a friendly face or someone to whom you just talked too before the meeting

  • Use the one person one idea method for connecting. Eye contact needs to be about 3 seconds per person, then move on to someone else
  • Create a positive and supportive connection by smiling
  • Build rapport and reinforce openness and flexibility during the speech
  • Practice the Rule of Five:Don’t take yourself so seriously.
  • Eliminate fill speech. Just pause and take a deep breath before speaking.

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