Now Presenting…Four Experts on Powerful Presentations

I’ve been giving business presentations for nearly 20 years. The more I do it, the more I appreciate just how hard it is to do it really well. Today’s blog post features four resources to help with various aspects of speaking and presenting. Please add your favorites!

Get it Together

The same ol’ same ol’ approach to designing your presentation may not be getting the results you want. Nick Morgan (@DrNickMorgan) shares 5 Quick Ways to Organize a Speech.

Nick says:

“Too many people structure their presentations by pulling together slides and then assembling them like a deck of cards, in what seems like an OK order.  That usually means that no one except the presenter can divine where the speech is headed.

“That’s a bad idea.

“At the heart of a successful presentation is a clear structure.  Which one should you use?  The best structure for what you’re trying to do depends on the nature of your talk.“

Nick then shares five possible situations in the organizational world for which you might be called upon to present, with a suggested outline for each.

Present with Presence

Sims Wyeth (@simswyeth) writes regularly about a variety of delivery techniques like pausing as a presentation skill.

Sims says:

“Taking time to think when you’re on stage makes you more interesting to watch. It gives you presence and gravitas. It fills your body with a mysterious power-electric activity under the skin.”

Who doesn’t want a little mysterious power-electric activity under the skin!

(By the way, I recently signed up for Sims’ weekly Presentation Pointers and am really enjoying them. They are brief, insightful, and usable—a great combination.)

The One “Thing” to Avoid

Patricia Fripp (@PFripp) writes about the importance of being deliberate with the words we choose in How to Sound Intelligent in a Speech or Sales Presentation.

Patricia says:

“The one thing you should always avoid when you speak is—“thing.” What a fuzzy, flabby, non-specific word! Never be vague if you want to be believed. Use exact, precise words—words with power and value.”

Yes, ma’am.

Kill the Presentation Altogether

You wouldn’t treat a job interview like a sales presentation, complete with 40-slide deck, would you? S. Anthony Iannarino (@iannarino) turns our traditional ideas of how to conduct a sales call upside down in You Think You Are Presenting. You Are Being Interviewed.

Anthony says:

“Don’t get me wrong, there are times when you absolutely must present your company using your standard slide deck and when you must share some basic history. Even then, that presentation should not dominate your time with your dream client.

“Your dream client considers you a candidate for hire. They are considering making you part of their team and giving your responsibility for some outcome. The reason they need a dialogue instead of a monologue is because they are trying to get to know you. They are trying to make a good decision.”

Goodbye presenting, hello listening.

Five Ways to Create Trust with Stories

You already know you’re supposed to use stories to convey your point, right? Yet be honest: are you still using Powerpoint decks crowded with 12-point fonts and multiple bullets? And no stories?

If you suspect you might not be using story-telling as much as you should, let’s review the bidding.

Five Reasons to Use Story-Telling

1. Many of us veto the use of a story because we think it makes us appear unprofessional, or risks being seen as “too soft” on content. That right there’s a good reason to increase your use of stories: professionals especially under-estimate their utility.

2. Sims Wyeth describes why story-telling is the perfect solution to the “split audience” problem: when half the audience are technical, half aren’t; half are old, half young; and so on. And he tells you how to do it.

3. Stories create emotional connection. Sean Kavanagh of the Ariel Group explains the Irish version of the story connection

4. There is something about a story that lowers the emotional resistance to advice. The best way to get a teenager not to do something is to tell them to do it. And we’re all in touch with our inner teenager. But stories get past that. Somehow, when we hear the ‘meaning’ of the story, it becomes our meaning. Our inner NIH syndrome disappears, and we accept the advice, even if it’s very transparent, in ways we never would directly.

There’s a reason that we watch Jimmy Stewart play George Baily in It’s A Wonderful Life every year–because we love the story. And part of that story is the story that the angel Clarence tells George Baily—the story of his life-as-it-could-have-been. This story-telling device was used precisely the same way, to equally great success, in The Christmas Carol. Come to think of it, ditto for 1,001 Arabian Nights—the story of 1,001 stories. 

5. And then there’s metaphor.  A story is a form of metaphor. Metaphors allow us to make connections in ways that our linear, rational minds never allow. In some ways, deploying stories as metaphors gives us the widest range of all in terms of uses. 

Anne Miller has written a book on precisely that subject, called Make What You Say Pay. In chapters organized by application, Miller gives example after example of metaphors: to explain new concepts, to simply a complex pitch, to shift a paradigm, to close a deal, and so forth.  

Miller’s book gives at least five times five ways to use stories as metaphor, you’re bound to find several that help your work. 

Want some advice on how to get better at telling your stories? I can think of no one better qualified than Patricia Fripp. Here is a 7-minute YouTube piece from a National Speaker Association talk by the Frippster. You will not get more insights-per-minute anywhere else.

Fripp says, “Stories are the creative conversion of life itself, into a more powerful, clear, more meaningful experience.” And an audience will always prefer a simple story well told to a brilliant story badly told. (For the few combination speaker-musicians out there, you may know Patricia’s brother—King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp).