Secrets to Presenting With Impact
Trevor Noah is one of my favorite speakers. Is he a public speaker? No, he’s a standup comedian. But I could listen to him speak for days upon days. Much like so many people in the world, English is not his first language and it should not be the reason for anyone not to become a good communicator. He speaks to people as if they matter.
“It’s not the words you use, it’s the connection you make that resonates with others.”— John Baldoni
This stereotypical image we have of a public speaker is outdated and goes way back to the 1960s. The stereotype has to be broken. Presentations are basic communication skills that will help anyone get their message across, whether they deliver it to a thousand people or just one person.
Have you ever heard someone admitting something or throwing a joke and thinking to yourself, “Oh boy! This is funny. And it’s funny because it’s true”. I don’t know if there’s a secret recipe or formula for how to deliver a presentation with impact, but when I watch Brené Brown videos, I always wonder what it is in her voice, her demeanor, or the simplicity of her language. If you find the answer to this question, I’d like to know.
The secret is out and I think I figured out a few things that we should all try to accomplish when preparing for and delivering a presentation.
(1) It’s not all about me, me, me, me!
Whether it’s a one-on-one conversation or a speech delivered to a thousand people, the rules of the came will never change. Impactful speakers have something to say. They have a message. Their speech has beef and substance.
Gary Brown quotes one of the luminaries of the microelectronics industry, Gordon Moore. He talked about the industry, the challenges faced, the obstacles everyone should overcome collectively. It’s very rare for someone to skip the introduction about themselves and their accomplishments and dive right into what concerns others. He knew his audience. As Gary Brown said, “The next time you get up and give a talk, it’s should not be about you, it should be about your audience”. Only then, you’ll have something to say.
One of the most powerful, yet shortest TED talks was by Ariana Huffington at TEDWomen Talk. She didn’t mention anything about her role at Huffington Post or how she decides what comes to you as the news of the day. She didn’t even spend 5 seconds talking about herself. Instead, she connected with the crowd and spoke about a problem that nobody ever thought would be the center of a speech, the value of having a good night’s sleep.
One way to make your presentations about others and not just yourself is finding that one thing that connects you with them and connects us all. I call it being relatable. Being retable reflects how much you know about your audience.
In her TED talk, Esther Perel talks about one of the biggest taboos of any culture, infidelity. However, because it’s such an embarrassing thing to talk about, the only way to connect with people was to show them that there’s something in it for them. So, she starts by saying, “This talk is for anyone who has ever loved.” Hooked!
Let’s rewind to the image of the public speaker that has been planted in our minds. I’ll tell you what I imagine when I think of it: a charismatic, eloquent, and extroverted person. I don’t like that image anymore, because as Elena Crescia said, the one most important thing you need as a public speaker and presenter is not charisma, it’s a good idea to share with others. Good public speaking is for anyone with a good idea. That’s why the TED slogan is, Ideas Worth Spreading.
Are you an introvert? So is Bill Gates. He’s a self-proclaimed introvert. It’s important to have shy and introverted people as speakers and contributors in all working groups.
(2) Curiosity hasn’t killed this cat, yet
Being curious is at the essence of everything and anything we do in life. One of the most underrated secrets of all of our success is the degree by which we can be curious, as Mohammed Younus said. Being a student of life and for life gives you the energy to keep going because you’ll keep looking for answers. There’s nothing that drives people crazier than an unanswered question.
It’s a secret that was never shared with us growing up and if this is the first time you’re reading about it, tell others you heard it from me. Curiosity keeps all conversations interesting and helps you start up conversations with other people, as Elena Crescia said.
(3) Make me laugh! Now!
Let’s go back to Trevor Noah, because, seriously, he’s my favorite comic and because he used humor to connect with people. He comes across as natural and authentic. You’ll laugh because it’s true. What if you don’t think you’re funny? I don’t think you should force it. I don’t know that you can, but you can use memes and funny material on your presentation to bring humor, as Mallory Rothstein said.
Create your own version of funny. In the world, as Mallory Rothstein said, there is Oprah and there’s Ellen DeGeneres. Each of them is entertaining in her own way. You don’t see them copying each others’ style. Frankly speaking, we don’t want a hundred Oprahs and Ellens, so be yourself. Sometimes people will laugh at something because the speaker is simply candid, as Elena Crescia said
Speak to me as you know me
One of the micro-skills I learned about presentations and writing, in general, is learning to write your script and your article as if you’re speaking to a friend or relative. Speak as if you’re talking to someone else. It helped me change my style of writing from lecturing and preaching to having a conversation. Don’t take that for granted.
“The Imitation Game” or some of the greatest speeches for you to practice
(1) Tim Urban — Inside the mind of a master procrastinator
(2) Sugata Mitra — Build a school in the cloud