If you’re a leader and effective speaking isn’t one of your top priorities, then all of your other work priorities are at risk. You cannot be an effective leader if you are not an effective communicator. Things can’t get done correctly unless they are communicated clearly. Employees can’t be engaged unless they are inspired. Public speaking is an essential skill for a leader.
And yet, in study after study, managers say that they are uncomfortable talking with their own employees. That’s particularly alarming given that one of the primary things employees say they need to feel engaged and productive at work is regular, meaningful communication with their direct supervisors and other company leaders.
In the annual Phoenix Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” survey, communication consistently ranks as a major factor in employee satisfaction at work. Communication breakdowns can cost companies in terms of engagement, productivity, and retention.
What Employees Want to Hear
So, what do employees want to hear? Employees want authentic, transparent and ongoing dialogues with their leadership. They want their leaders to provide context and make sense of what’s going on. And they want to hear from their leaders in face-to-face meetings.
Public Speaking Not Your Strong Suit?
If you’re a leader and public speaking isn’t your strong suit, you can turn that around. Perhaps you’ve been struggling with it for years. Or maybe you just got promoted suddenly speaking is a much bigger part of your job. Maybe you got asked to speak at a special company event and you’re not prepared for it. Whatever the reason, you can gain the confidence and the skills to be a good speaker.
It’s not too late to make a New Years Resolution. It takes time and it takes practice, but you can become an effective speaker. And when you do, you’ll be a better leader.
I am honored to be featured as a guest writer on the Beverly Mahone Communications blog. I wrote about the power of face-to-face communication and storytelling in public speaking and business presentations.
When delivering a speech or making a business presentation, it’s easy to get caught up in all the data. It’s important to remember that facts and figures feed our brains but it is the stories we tell that stir our emotions and feed our souls. A compelling story combined with supporting data is a very powerful combination.
I recently saw the film “Darkest Hour, the dramatic story of Winston Churchill in his early days as Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II. Churchill was named Prime Minister in the midst of a crisis. Hitler’s military was overrunning most of Europe and was closing in on Great Britain. Most of Britain’s army was pinned down at Dunkirk on the French coast and it appeared they might be destroyed or all taken prisoner at any moment. It seemed nothing could stop Hitler.
The nation, and indeed the world, awaited to see Churchill’s response. Would Britain try to broker a peace or would they fight on against overwhelming odds?
Britain would fight on with dogged determination. As film dramatically depicts, it was the power of Churchill’s public speaking skills that tapped into the sentiment of the populace that made the difference. Churchill’s oratory turned the British policy from appeasement to “we will never surrender.”
For those of us who appreciate great speeches, the movie captures the drama of Churchill’s speeches and it also provides a fascinating behind the scenes look at how he dictated and crafted his powerful speeches.
“He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”
In the climactic scene, Churchill delivers his famous “We shall fight them on the beaches” speech to the House of Commons of the British Parliment. This was the speech that cemented Britain’s determination to resist — at all costs. As the speech reaches a crescendo, the audience bursts into an emotional applause. One of Churchill’s political foes asks a colleague “What just happened?” The other responded, “He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”
It’s amazing to think of how very different world history might have been without Winston Churchill “mobilizing the English language.” Public speaking can change the world.
Change YOUR World
You might not be called upon to stir a nation to action, but how many opportunities in your career have you had to inspire a project team, to win over a client, or to persuade your boss? Public speaking can change your world.
But if public speaking has been holding you back in your career, why not make 2018 the year you change all that? Why not make being a skilled presenter a New Year’s resolution. It will take work and dedication, but you can become a confident and effective speaker if you have a good coach at your side and if you keep Churchill’s advice in mind: “Never, never, never give up!”
So, here’s to new beginnings, here’s to 2018, and here’s to YOU!
Don’t let public speaking hold you back in your career any longer. Imagine being able to speak with confidence anywhere, anytime. There’s no better time than right now to start investing in yourself.
We’re here to help you fulfill this New Years Resolution. Let’s talk about how we can work together to get you started being the kind of speaker that commands a room. You can get started right now by booking a free 30-minute Speaking Success Strategy Session.
We were honored to have three great guest bloggers the past year who wrote on a variety of public speaking topics. Before we put the pedal to the metal and race into 2018, let’s take a quick look in our rearview mirror at some of the wisdom that was shared with us this year.
Nayomi Chibana showed how to create visual slides your audience will remember. This is a must-read for anyone that uses PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi or other presentation software. Read the Post
Being really smart about what you do and being really good at talking about it doesn’t always go hand-in-hand. Beverly Mahone offers tips for those who are subject matter experts, but not necessarily expert public speakers. Read the Post
Audio/Visual technicians are the folks behind the scenes that make everything work on stage. Newton Koshi has seen a lot of business presentations and speeches and he provides public speaking tips from the unique perspective of an A/V expert. Read the Post
Thanks again to these experts for sharing these great public speaking tips for our blog. 2017 was a great year and we’re excited about what lies ahead. Heck, we’re just getting started.
Our Phoenix Business Journal “Speak Up and Stand Out” public speaking workshop is sold out but we just added a new one at Harmon Public Library in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday, Jan. 16, from 11:30 am. to 1:30 p.m. The $40 fee to attend includes a light lunch and a workbook.
This is a great way to start the New Year. Put public speaking fear in your rearview mirror in 2018!
I watched my friend Artesian Kirksey deliver an electrifying college commencement speech a couple of years ago. I had presented the commencement address at the same college the year before and had delivered it in a traditional manner, from behind a lectern. Commencement speeches are always delivered from behind a lectern, right?
When Artesian delivered his speech, the first thing he did was grab the microphone from the lectern and step out toward his audience. As soon as he did so, you could feel the excitement of the audience intensify. Even before he began to speak, you could feel the energy in the room increase. It was clear that this was not going to be a typical commencement speech — and it was not. He delivered a powerful and memorable speech.
Artesian’s bold move reinforced something I have believed for a long time: A lectern is a piece of furniture that gets between speakers and their audiences. And Artesian’s decision to ditch the lectern to deliver something as traditional as a commencement address shows that we can rethink all situations that seem to demand the use of a lectern.
You might not be called upon to deliver a commencement speech anytime soon, but you might find yourself giving a business presentation, offering a wedding toast, or presenting in any number of other public speaking situations where a lectern is present. Think about whether you really need that piece of furniture coming between you and your audience. Think about the audience engagement you can create without it. Think about how much more personal and authentic you will be without it.
Making connections with your audience and engaging them in your message are the keys to great speeches and powerful business presentations. Your decision to step out from behind the lectern might make the difference between a good speech and one that wows.
We are pleased to be part of the Phoenix Better Busines Bureau’s “Arizona Speakers Bureau.” You can find a listing for our own Paul Barton, as well as listings for many other Arizona speakers, on the local BBB website.
Paul’s topics include:
Speak Up and Stand Out: Secrets to Business Communication Success
Crisis Communication: Be Your Best When Facing the Worst
Finding the Voice of Your Brand
Maximizing Internal Communication
Fasten Your Seatbelts — The Future Starts Now (commencement address)
Of course, you also can find information about Paul’s speaking services right here on our website.
But we thought it was pretty cool to be listed by the BBB so we wanted to let you know.
Motivational speaker Lee Jackson said it best when he exclaimed, “Your slides should be a billboard, not a document!”
I couldn’t agree more. Who hasn’t been forced to sit through a presentation in which the speaker simply read off his or her slides, without any forethought as to what would help the audience connect with the message on a deeper level?
And the saddest part is that most presenters today — whether they’re academicians, students or business people — are taught to do the same: Simply transmit information using slides full of bullet points, overused stock photos, and random color schemes.
But the most successful presenters know a secret most don’t: By applying basic design principles, you can significantly increase your audience’s engagement with your message and help them retain information for a longer period of time. After all, a majority of the population (65 percent to be more exact) are visual learners.
For most people, using presentation software to create slide decks has become second nature: You simply choose a design template, insert your text, create bullet points for each slide, add a few images here and there—and voilà! You’re done — right?
Not if you really want to impress your audience.
The most effective speakers have learned to wean themselves off bullet-ridden slides in favor of highly visual presentations that reinforce their words—instead of repeating them.
This is no surprise since human beings are hardwired to process images quicker than textual information. While we can process images in as little as 13 milliseconds, according to one of the latest studies, text takes considerably longer to process.
Sadly, however, most students, academicians, and business people are taught to stick to the old way of creating presentations: full of text-heavy slides that make it harder—not easier—to understand and act upon your message.
The Power of Storytelling
Does this mean that visuals will trump the written word? By no means! Whether you’re dealing with a multimedia presentation, a Hollywood movie or a novel, one thing will always reign supreme: the power of storytelling.
This is why well-designed slides will always start with a good story and good content—not the other way around.
So, the three essential ingredients to a successful presentation are: the content, the design, and the delivery.
We all learned in high school or college that a piece of communication can have one of four purposes: to inform, entertain, inspire or persuade.
These same communicational objectives can be applied to presentation giving. For example, within a business setting, your goal may be to accomplish more than one of these objectives: to inform your audience and also inspire them to take action.
In this case, you may want to use a combination of storytelling techniques and the exposition of facts to get your point across.
In her book Resonate, presentation guru Nancy Duarte proposes a way to weave both of these into your narrative. She suggests thinking about presentations as somewhere between two extremes: a report, full of unexciting numbers and figures, and a story, which has the power to keep viewers at the edge of their seats. While facts are used to inform, stories create memorable experiences.
By shifting between facts that provide a snapshot of the current reality and stories that paint a picture of the ideal situation, you create suspense and desire in your audience to learn what comes next. Duarte visualizes this alternating between facts and stories as a sparkline, which represents the dramatic tension created by comparing what is with what could be.
Once you’ve defined the objective of your presentation—whether to inform, entertain, persuade, inspire, or a combination of all of these—you can begin the brainstorming process.
Although you’ve probably made the mistake of opening up PowerPoint and creating your slides without any forethought, the best presentations are the product of careful planning and purposeful brainstorming.
Start by taking a piece of paper and pencil and drawing out your ideas; this will help get your creative juices flowing and allow you to generate ideas freely, without the sense of finality that comes with inserting content onto a slide.
You can use diagrams such as mind maps, Venn diagrams, tree diagrams, and spoke diagrams to illustrate your initial ideas.
All great communicators know that the key to crafting a message that will resonate with your audience is to first understand their needs, pain points, motivations, and goals. The more diligently you set out to walk a mile in their shoes, the easier it will be to speak their language and offer solutions to their most pressing needs.
Start by asking yourself the following questions:
Who is your typical audience member? List key demographic and psychographic information, such as age, gender, race, income level, interests, values and personality traits.
What pressing problem can you help them with? What information do they hope to attain from your talk? What do they hope to achieve with it?
How do they want to receive information? Are they busy people who want a general overview in an easy-to-process visual presentation? Or are they more interested in a detailed report in document format as well?
How much do they know about the subject? Use language and terms in accordance with your audience’s knowledge level and familiarity with the subject matter.
What objections might they have? How might your audience resist your message? Think of ways to address each of these objections.
Create an Audience Journey Map
Next, think of your presentation as a journey in which you will take your audience from point A to point B. What do you want them to do at the end of your presentation? Do you want them to invest in a certain product or cause? Do you want them to change the way they think about a certain problem?
According to Gavin McMahon, co-founder of fassforward Consulting Group, this common story structure transfers new information from the presenter to the audience. Its main goal is to teach new insights or abilities. Visualized as the process of stair climbing, each part of the presentation takes you closer to an enlightened state.
Meanwhile, The Drama is based on the Hero’s Journey, a structure followed by some of our favorite stories, such as The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. The protagonist (could be a brand, representation of a customer, etc.) is engulfed in a problem that can’t be ignored. After descending into crisis and awaiting the worst, there is an unexpected discovery that leads the hero to resurface as a conqueror, with a new lesson and story to tell others.
Then there’s also this commonly used structure recommended by fassforward Consulting Group. It’s a simple formula that starts by engaging your audience with a hook (such as a provocative question or a story) and then proceeds to deliver the meat of your presentation and end with an effective conclusion that circles back to the introduction.
The Big Idea
Once you’ve mapped your audience’s journey, make sure to not lose sight of the main focus of your presentation. Just like an essay or paper needs a thesis statement, your presentation should have one “big idea” that can be summed up in a few sentences. This statement should articulate your unique perspective on an issue and why your audience should care about it.
To build an airtight case within your narrative, you will need to use corroborated facts and figures to back up your claims.
You can start outlining your case by going back to your one big idea and then identifying each of your main points, followed by supporting details. To help you craft an airtight argument, you can use an idea map like this one.
Create a Storyboard
Because a successful presentation is built not just on good content but on an effective design, the next step is to create a visual storyboard, much like those used to outline the content in a video. The overarching theme you decided on in the brainstorming process will be useful for visualizing your deck at this stage, which should contain no more than one idea per slide.
To help all communicators — even those without a design background — learn the design principles necessary to create purposeful visual slides, presentation tool Visme put together this free 125-page presentation design guide to creating visual slides with impact.
Based on more than two years of research into what sets the most successful presentations apart from others, this guide is chock-full of visual before-and-after examples, cheat sheets and case studies. If you’re eager to seriously raise the bar on your presentations, but don’t have the time or resources to take presentation design courses, this book is for you.
ABOUT OUR GUEST BLOGGER
Nayomi Chibana is a journalist and writer for Visme’s Visual Learning Center. She has an M.A. in Journalism and Media from the University of Hamburg in Germany and was an editor of a leading Latin American political investigative magazine for several years. In addition to researching trends in visual communication and next-generation storytelling, she’s passionate about data-driven content.