I often use the above historic photo in my public speaking workshops. The photo was taken just before the start of the very first presidential debate to be carried on live television. You, of course, recognize the contestants — Richard Nixon vs. John F. Kennedy.
When I show the photo to my workshop attendees, I ask folks to shout out, in one word, what the body language of each candidate says to them. Invariably, they shout words like “nervous, uncomfortable, awkward” for Nixon and “leader, calm, cool” for Kennedy. Then I repeat the exercise, but this time I ask the attendees to focus on just the clothing the two are wearing. The result is identical. Yep, clothes make a statement and the attire chosen by Nixon and Kennedy were saying this: awkward vs. cool.
It is fascinating to me that before either man stood up to speak — before they even uttered a single word — their body language and their clothing were sending clear messages to the audience.
And the Winner is …
Equally fascinating is this fact: those who listened to the debate on radio thought Nixon was the clear winner of the debate but those who watched the debate on TV thought Kennedy was the clear winner. The difference — verbal communication vs. visual communication.
The majority of our communication is done visually — body position, eye contact, facial expressions, and, yes, clothing. What’s more, visual communication is seen by audiences as more credible than verbal communication.
What this means for business presenters like you is this: It’s a very competitive world out there and you need every edge you can get. Visual communication just might make the difference between getting to the next level in a business relationship or going home.
Coming Up …
We’ve talked a lot in this blog about body language, but what about what about what to wear? What clothes are best for making presentations? Well, we’ve got you covered there as well. Check back here on Friday for “Speak and Bespoke: How to Dress for Speaking Success,” a Q&A interview with Phoenix fashion expert Mary Zarob. It’s a fun and informative read. See you then!
You’ve seen it a million times – someone reads a written introduction about a public speaker or business presenter who is about to take the stage. The introduction is written in the third person but it was obviously written by the speaker. This is how public speaking works, right?
Well, it doesn’t have to be this way. I recently listened to an old podcast interview with public speaking expert Fred Miller who offered a formula for a good introduction. Miller believes your introduction should not be your bio. Instead, he said, every speaker introduction should answer these three questions:
> Why this subject? Explain why it’s relevant to your audience.
> Why this speaker? Outline your credentials.
> Why now? Explain why it’s timely.
I believe this formula will allow you as a speaker to have an introduction that has value and perfectly positions the presentation you’re about to give. Conversely, if you can’t answer these three questions, and do so clearly and concisely, you’re not ready to give your presentation.
A great presentation starts with a great introduction.
You’ve finished your presentation and you feel pretty good about how it went. The audience seemed engaged.
“Nothing to work on here,” you tell yourself … on to the next presentation!
Then from out of the blue, someone comments, “great job but the way you kept swaying back and forth nearly made me nauseous.”
What? You sway? You didn’t know that!
It’s often not until something is brought to your attention, that you can then make a change. This is one reason why coaching is valuable. You get an objective view of what you’re doing and the help to make corrections. One of our coaching techniques includes having you video yourself giving a presentation. This recording is not a judgment and it shouldn’t be scary. It’s simply feedback — feedback that will help you grow as a speaker. There is just no denying your idiosyncrasies when they are captured on video. As with any kind of unconscious habit, once you become aware of what you are doing, you can adjust and become better.
Today, it’s easier to record yourself than ever. A powerful video recorder sits in the palm of your hand thanks to advanced cell phone technology. I bought a very simple iPhone stand from Amazon for less than $20. It even comes with a remote so I can start the recording from the stage and let it run. The sound isn’t great but you can hear it. Remember, this is to get feedback; this method is not for recording and publishing your presentation. For that, you will need to upgrade your equipment.
Whether you record yourself using your phone or the event organizers record you and give you a copy, the real secret here is actually watching the footage! Often, I’ll hear that someone has made a recording but never bothered to watch it. Carve out time to watch the recording shortly after you’ve given the presentation so it’s all still fresh in your mind. Watch it, without judgment, all the way through at normal speed. This is your first pass. This will give you an unbiased view of how you sound and look. This used to be all I did until I heard Toastmaster’s World Champion Speaker Mark Brown. As part of his speaking discipline, he watches a video not once, but four times and in four different ways.
This is Mark’s recommendation and one I’ve adopted and encourage my clients to use as well. The process looks like this:
> Step 1: Play the video with your eyes closed and just listen to your remarks.
> Step 2: Watch with the sound off and focus on your gestures.
> Step 3: Watch in slow motion and focus on your facial expressions only.
> Step 4: Watch at normal speed with the volume up.
If you do this, you will uncover any distracting facial tics, gestures, or unnecessary filler words. Even a great presenter (Mark clearly is one!) will get even better by scrutinizing a video of his or her speeches.
Don’t use video as a tool to beat yourself up, use it as a tool to grow! Maybe you’ll find out that you sway from side to side and it’s distracting. That is an easy fix. However, unless you know you’re doing it, you’ll never fix it, and you won’t become the effective speaker you are meant to be.
I recently teamed up with New York City-based social media expert Dhariana Lozano to offer tips on engaging virtual audiences and hosting effective virtual meetings via speakerphone or webinar.
Dhariana and I presented our tips via Facebook Live. In case you missed it, you can hear the replay by clicking on the button below.
And hey, we’d welcome your suggestions for keeping audiences engaged and running effective virtual meetings. Do you have rules that you use to make virtual meetings run as smooth as possible? Do you favor certain technology products that make meetings more effective? Please leave your ideas in the comments section below.
Do you have a love/hate relationship with questions? Did your child repeatedly ask you questions when you were trying to give them a grand lecture on the importance of tooth brushing? Was “why” their favorite word? Or maybe you have that colleague who questions everything. You just want to make your point without getting interrupted 10 times.
If you’ve been tempted to ban questions and questioning from your presentations, think again. Questions can be a powerful tool for engaging your audience and checking in with them to make sure your points are well understood.
There are many ways to begin a presentation. One of my favorites is with a question. Asking a question gets your audience engaged right off the start. “How many of you believe that we can grow our revenue in the 4th Quarter by 30%? Only two of you? Well, during this presentation, you are going to learn how we can surpass that goal and you’re going to get a clear blueprint to make it happen. You’ll leave feeling confident that this investment in resources will result in a record-breaking 4th Quarter.” Interested? Yes, your audience will be as well. You have piqued their interest and you’ve got them thinking. They are now invested and want to know more.
Of course, you could have said, “We are investing in new resources to grow revenue in the 4th Quarter by 30%.” This is a bit of a startling statement so you’ll likely have your audience’s attention but you’ve asked nothing of them. It’s clear that you’ll be doing the talking, they’ll be doing the listening, and eventually, they’ll check out as this is just another pitch from leadership. You can see how opening with a question is much more powerful.
Questions actively engage the audience. They are either thinking about the answer or you’ve directly asked them to respond. In the example above, you’ve asked for a direct response. You’re essentially taking a poll from the audience. As with any poll, be sure and report on the results. Take a minute to observe the room and report back. “Only two of you?” This not only gets everyone on the same page in terms of the sentiment of the room but it also sends a signal to the audience that you care that they participated. If you ask additional questions throughout your presentation, you will get responses. If you ignore the responses, people will stop giving you feedback because you’ve subtly communicated that you don’t care anyway.
Results from questions give you real-time feedback as to what the audience is thinking. Your goal as a speaker is to be clearly understood. What better way to ensure that your audience is following you than to ask questions along the way? Now some people may advise you not to ask questions because it will derail your remarks. In some cases, this is true but if you’re giving a presentation to a team and you need to be understood, questions are your ally.
Similarly to asking questions throughout, be willing to entertain questions toward the end of your remarks. Often times the Q&A section is as valuable or even more valuable than any of your prepared remarks. Don’t be concerned that you’ll get asked a question that will trip you up. If you’re asked something you don’t know, acknowledge it and offer to follow up. “I don’t have that specific data with me right now but will get that answer for you later today.” And then move on. If someone wants to start a debate with you regarding one of your answers, simply say, “I appreciate your interest in this; let’s discuss this more after today’s meeting. Does anyone else have a question?” Another option, in some circumstances, is to open the question up to the audience.
If you’re giving the same presentation multiple times to different teams, the questions asked will give you ideas on changes you may want to make to your presentation. If you keep getting the same question, perhaps you haven’t clearly communicated that point in your remarks and now you have a chance to clean that up before your next presentation.
Questions are a great way to address any lingering thoughts or confusion about what you’ve presented. However, don’t let questions have the final say. Once you finish the Q&A section, as Paul Barton advises, close with power. Leave your audience with exactly the key point you want to communicate. Going back to the example used at the beginning of this post, your ending might sound like, “As you now know, we have a plan to significantly increase sales in Q4. By using XYZ effectively, we are positioned well to not only achieve 30% growth but substantially more. You and your teams are about to take part in a record-breaking year-end for ABC. We couldn’t be more excited or more ready. The sky is truly the limit this year.”
Using questions to start your presentation will engage your audience early and get them involved with what you have to say. Asking questions along the way will ensure that they are following along and understand what you are communicating. Questions are a powerful tool that will make you an even better communicator.
In today’s fiercely competitive business climate, how well you present yourself can make the difference between getting ahead or going home. Business communication experts Paul Barton and Michele Trent will show you how to deliver like a polished professional in this workshop sponsored by the Phoenix Business Journal.
Participants will discover how to:
> Have an executive presence
> Use your body language to influence and include
> Connect with an audience in the crucial first 90 seconds
> Introduce yourself and make a great first impression
> Present your business card so that you are remembered
> Conclude with a sizzle, not a fizzle
The session will be held at the Better Business Bureau, 1010 E Missouri Ave. in Phoenix, on Thursday, May 16. Check-in and deli-style lunch are at 11:30 a.m. The workshop is from noon to 2 p.m.
EXCLUSIVE OFFER: Use discount code PAUL at checkout and receive 20% off.
These workshops sell out quickly so you best be signing up now!
We’re excited to expand our offerings. Presentation expert Michele Trent has joined our team and is offering two new coaching packages to help you master the basics and polish your public speaking skills. Having worked with big and small businesses, and for-profits and non-profits, Michele brings a wealth of experience.
Michele will focus on these two new personal coaching packages:
It’s a good public speaking practice to inspect speaking venues before you deliver your presentation. Where will you stand? Where will your audience be? What AV equipment is available? Where will your laptop go? Do you have the right connections for your laptop? Will you need a microphone?
Checking out the room layout and the AV equipment is important for practical reasons. But there are also psychological reasons to do a site inspection. I like to do my inspections several days in advance so that I can visualize the location and become comfortable with it in my mind.
If you cannot do an inspection days in advance, come to your presentation an hour or so early. That way, you have some time to become comfortable with the room and the available equipment. If something needs to be fixed, moved or changed, you have some time to do that.
Doing a site inspection is a great way to avoid pitfalls and also a good way to see if your site offers any opportunities. Even if you are presenting in your own office building, make sure you are familiar with the room where you will be presenting and make sure you are comfortable operating all the technology.
Fumbling around trying to find out how to adjust the lights or get the sound to play on your video can ruin an otherwise great presentation.
When you take time to do a site inspection, you will be that much closer to having a great presentation. Make it part of your routine and you will present like a polished pro.
Asking your audience a “by show of hands” question just might be the most engaging type of question you can ask and one of the most powerful tools you have available as a public speaker or business presenter.
Here are some of the reasons why “show of hands” questions are so engaging:
First, like all questions, the audience has to think about their answer (provided you word it correctly and pause to give audience members adequate time to think).
Second, the audience has to involve themselves physically (granted it’s not calisthenics, but there is some physical motion involved).
Third, it engages audience members with one another as they look around to see who has their hands up and who doesn’t. Ask a question like “by show o hands, how many parents do we have?” and you’ll see audience members form instant bonds with one another.
Watch Out for These Mistakes
“Show of hands” can be very engaging, but here are a few things to watch out for so your question doesn’t backfire:
First, make sure the question is worded clearly so audience members are crystal clear about how to respond.
Second, make sure you take the time to see how many hands are up and report the results to the audience with a comment. Think of the “by show of hands” question as a real-time poll. Like a poll, you’ll want to note the results, report the results back to the audience and analyze the findings. “Ah, I see about half of you are parents. That’s about typical for working people.”
Third, don’t rush it. I’ve seen many presenters ask for a show of hands but then charge on with their presentation before they’ve even counted the results of their query. This leaves an audience feeling a bit cheated and audience members are left thinking: “He didn’t even take the time to look at my answer. I hadn’t even got my hand up yet and he moved on. I guess he didn’t really even care about the answer.”
If you’re going to ask the question, take the time to get the answer. You and your audience will be glad you did.