When you present, are you at risk of focusing too much on your topic?
Usually, you’re chosen as the speaker (or as a subject-matter expert for a training project) because you’ve deep knowledge of your subject. But sadly, that means it’s all too easy for your audience to become overwhelmed or confused by the detailed knowledge you might try to present.
You and your audience see your topic differently
And even if your audience are as expert as you, they won’t have exactly the same background and perspective. So again, that makes it easy to lose them, because you and they see your topic differently.
What can you do then, to help bridge that gap between your listeners’ viewpoints and your own?
When you give a presentation or speech, have you ever wondered if you might be speaking too fast? That’s certainly a very common issue. So, statistically, it’s quite likely that sometimes you do talk too quickly when you speak in public.
Why’s speaking quickly a problem? There are 2 reasons:
- It can make your message harder for people to absorb.
- It tends to make you sound nervous, which causes people to subconsciously wonder why you feel that way. In turn, that makes them less willing to trust you and your message.
I heard a slightly contrary view about speaking fast
So when I heard a slightly contrary view about speaking fast, I found the new viewpoint refreshing and thought-provoking.
It came from Jean-Luc Doumont, a speaker-coach to academics and scientists, who just this week finished his 1st ever series of lectures in Australia.
Here’s what he said:
How much do you take notice of audience feedback? Positive feedback feels great, but on the other hand, negative feedback can sting!
In this 1-minute video, professional speaker Josh Shipp shares some neat advice on how to shape your attitude to feedback:
I loved several things about Josh’s video – especially the quotes below:
When you build a deck of presentation slides, how do you keep on track? If you’re like me, I’m sure you’ve sometimes felt pressure (from yourself or some-one else) to include more and more content.
You know, like:
- Background on your topic, even though most of your audience doesn’t care (or already knows it)
- Existing slides on your topic, but which were made for a different purpose
Here’s one great tip that’ll help you resist pressures like those, and it comes in just a
20-second video clip from experienced speaking-coach Jim Endicott:
As Jim suggests:
When you’re preparing a speech or presentation, do you ask yourself specific questions to help you build your talk?
For instance, you might ask yourself:
“What do I want my audience to do as a result of my talk?”
Questions like that one – being based on your audience – are much more helpful than focusing on your topic itself. They help you frame your content from your listeners’ viewpoint. So when you give your talk, people are far more likely to:
- Listen to what you say in the first place.
- Make the effort to properly consider it.
- Accept it.
One of the best sets of speech-planning questions I’ve ever seen was shared by speaking-coach Christopher Witt. It consists of just 4 questions, the 1st being what you want your audience to do, and the last being:
To find public-speaking wisdom, do you go to specific blogs? I certainly do. In fact, 3 years ago, I published a list of 6 of the world’s best.
But a lot’s changed in 3 years, and some of the blogs on my original list have gone belly-up. (In fact, you can still access most of those, but they don’t publish anything new.)
So I thought you might appreciate a fresh list.
Mind you, given that I’ve also listed 10 extinct public-speaking blogs, it’s not easy to find contenders.
If you’re like me, you won’t believe that anyone can be a better public speaker instantly. It takes repeated practice – often for years!
At least, I used to think that. But then I read a short post by Jon Acuff, and I saw that it is possible – in one sense – to be instantly better at speaking.
The instant that Jon’s talking about is the moment when you say your opening line. As he notes in this pithy quote:
“The beginning seals the deal
or ruins everything”
Right now, why not take a moment to vividly imagine achieving these 3 outcomes whenever you present?
- Feeling relaxed.
- Influencing people more.
- Delighting your audience.
Those 3 are the Holy Grail of public speaking! No doubt you’d be glad to achieve any 1 of them, so to get all 3 would be bliss.
Well according to Keith Bailey of Decker Communications, you can achieve all 3 of those outcomes simply by pausing effectively.
In fact, in a quote of just 15 words, Keith encapsulates not only those 3 outcomes but also how simply (though not easily) you can achieve them:
Here’s a brilliant metaphor (plus advice) for giving a talk. It comes from Chris Anderson (curator of TED), speaking recently at TED Global in the UK.
Take people on a mental journey step-by-step
In setting up his metaphor, he says that when you speak, your main task is like cloning your talk’s core message into your listeners’ heads. So to do that, he asserts that because of how the brain works, you need to take people on a mental journey step-by-step from their current state to one where they’ve accepted your message.
You might already know the metaphor of treating your talk as a journey. For me though, the best part of Chris’s version comes next, when he asks rhetorically:
What are the 2 things you need to do to persuade people to
come with you on a journey?
And he answers with this fantastic quote:
When you’re preparing for a presentation, what’s your first impulse?
If you’re like most people, you’ll begin preparing for a talk by opening PowerPoint (or Keynote, or whatever’s your preferred slide tool) and building slides. But this brief post is here to plead with you to do something different…
My plea is that you heed author Scott Berkun’s warning when he says:
“If you make slides first, you become a slide slave.
You will spend all your time perfecting your slides,
instead of perfecting your thoughts.”
To help you with a better approach, in this post you’ll also find 3 specific questions that Scott recommends you ask when you begin preparing your talk. (And you’ll see what expert presenters Nancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds have to say on the subject, too.)