Back in the day, before I knew better, I used to think that well-delivered good content with a clear call to action would be enough to get around the one glaring thing that was holding me back from being a great speaker.
Now I know better and want to explain why, in case you’re still one of the many business professionals who still believe that good content is enough.
So, let’s have a deeper look at those beliefs and then I’ll go on to explain why, on their own, they’re not enough to get that all important audience engagement that leads to more business.
This is the biggest grey area or blind spot I come across when it comes to public speaking and presenting your business. I have literally had people say to me ‘I’m really lucky not to need your services as I’ve always been a confident speaker’, only to watch them go on to deliver a really boring, badly structured talk – but confidently delivered, for sure.
And in fairness, we don’t know what we don’t know and so much is made of confidence that it’s easy to see how you can come to believe it’s the single most important aspect
The main problem I see when speakers believe that confidence is all they need is that will often wing it. They almost relish the challenge of standing up and giving a talk that they’ve given little thought to, let alone practised or properly prepared it.
‘But I like to deliver with a natural style’ you might say. And so you can. Stay with me.
Of course this is important. As an expert in your field, it’s a reasonable enough assumption that your audience will want to hear some of that expertise in order to apply it within their own business or profession. It definitely has a key place within your presentation but again, it’s not enough on its own.
I’ve heard too many presentations which can only be described as lists of valuable facts and information. Each one useful in its own way but when it comes before and after another valuable fact, that may or may not be directly related, the content becomes too confusing to make sense of. I therefore don’t know what I’m supposed to do with this information and even extracting just one nugget to take action on becomes overwhelming.
Does any of this sound familiar to you too? Or is just me that notices these things?
There’s no point giving your audience lots of information without giving them an idea of what they should or could do with it so yes, a call to action of some kind is indeed a key component to a successful presentation.
On the whole, your presentations should be aiming to change thought, behaviour or actions and while that might be obvious to you which one you want them to change, you do need to spell it out.
That might come in the form of a gentle question: ‘what about you? What will you do differently in the light of what I’ve been talking about?’ or an explicit suggestion: ‘Don’t waste any more time. Start today by signing up for my programme.’
However, again not enough on its own and definitely not enough if your call to action if it isn’t congruent with the content you’ve just presented.
What then are the missing ingredients?
Firstly, let’s look at why the above aspects aren’t enough on their own.
The reason is simple. Facts and information, however valuable and competently delivered, don’t engage your audience fully. They use the processing part of their brain to deal with what you’re sharing with them and that’s not the same part of the brain from which they commit their whole selves or commit to buying.
You therefore need to engage the part of their brain that deals with emotions.
As human beings, on the whole, we buy with emotions first and then look for the justification, rarely the other way around.
This is where creating engaging content, largely through the use of stories comes in.
Stories bring your facts and information to life and in a way that your listeners can relate to.
Rather than just telling them that clean air is good for them, that individuals work better when working to their strengths or that your systems use state of the art technology, tell them stories of people who didn’t have access to clean air, of how a team suddenly thrived when the style of leadership changed, that technology can make such a difference to them.
Describe feelings and the effect on the senses in those stories. Draw your audience in to the scene so that they imagine themselves there in the heart of your story.
It’s at that point, when they are relating to you and your story, that you can start to take them on a journey to see things your way and ultimately to encourage and entice them to take whatever action you’re urging them to take.
In order to effectively take them on that journey, your presentation needs a structure. A simple one will do.
Your content becomes so much easier to follow, to process and to remember when it’s structured.
It also makes it more likely that you’ll include the key bits of information etc that you want to convey. It makes it more likely that you’ll be remembered for the right reasons and will get booked again.
While I’m not for one minute suggesting you give exactly the same presentation over and over again, there’s a middle ground here where you give consistent content and value, and your audience gets to know what you stand for and what they can expect from you.
And with the right amount of practise and preparation you can still deliver with that seemingly natural style referred to earlier.
When you’ve used a simple structure to take your audience on a journey, your call to action can almost go without saying (although you must). It will follow on so naturally that your audience will be in a much better place to do whatever it is you’re suggesting or inviting them to do because you will have taken them to a logical conclusion.
Why wouldn’t they want cleaner air? Why wouldn’t they change the way they allocate tasks within their team? Why wouldn’t they want to buy your products?
So what was that one glaring thing that was missing from my speeches?
Stories. I was stuck in a place of believing I didn’t have a story worth sharing. I didn’t know how to make use of the 1,000’s of stories that happen around me daily, whether I’m part of them or not. I certainly didn’t see the value in sharing how I came to where I am or why I do what I do.
Now I know differently and would love an opportunity to help you create your engaging content.
Why not start by downloading my pdf 10 Top Tips for sharing stories.....
Rachel Maunder is a communication skills and speaker coach and professional speaker.
She has been in the world of competent communication, in different guises, for more than 30 years so has a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise to pass on to her clients, both through her signature programmes and her own presentations.
You can find out more about her coaching programmes here and about her speaking topics here.
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