I’m frequently asked questions about what kind of language should speakers use, should they temper their regional accents and which stories they should include in presentations.
The list could go on: What specific content, which key point to highlight, whether to use humour and if so, what kind of humour?
The answer is simple and always the same: it depends on who’s in the audience.
How familiar are they already with your topic? What’s their demographic? What are the similarities among them that bring them together for event?
What will appeal to them and what won’t? Are you out to impress or to shock? What do you want them to do as a result of your presentation?
Asking these questions and adapting your presentation accordingly will help you engage with your audience much more effectively, which in turn makes it more likely that they will buy your products or services.
We hear a lot about Show and Tell but how often do we stop to listen and watch?
When you listen and watch what’s happening in the world around you, you open yourself up to whole new set of stories.
What are people doing and saying?
How are they responding to each other and interacting?
What’s the story that’s unfolding before you?
What happens next and how does it end?
Taking the time to be an observer in life also sets you on the path to being a great storyteller.
When you tell a story based on your own observations, it gives you the opportunity to add your own take on what you saw and heard, giving your audience an opportunity to learn more about you as a person.
So do take time to Listen and Watch, and just like in Show and Tell, share what you’ve heard and seen.
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...
What risks have you taken?
Whether you’ve taken a risk in your career or business, with your own safety, or in any other way, you will definitely have taken risks.
What were the consequences?
Whether they turned out well or not, there’s a still a story to tell for every risk you’ve taken.
And when you tell a story, you inspire someone somewhere.
Did you just leap into the unknown or were there long deliberations?
What lessons were learned and what’s your message for others around taking similar risks?
Start making a list of all the risks you remember taking. Talk to family, friends and colleagues for their input and keep adding to the list.
Then start building the stories.
The risks you take and how you deal with the outcome tells your audience something about you.
So what are your risk stories and where can you use them?
Rachel Maunder is a...
There was no real reason to turn down the offer of a temporary job as a butcher’s delivery person.
Aged 18 with no income, and not much happening in my life at the time, the wackiness of the whole idea somehow appealed.
But I HATED it!
No Satnavs to help me find where I was supposed to go, no mobile phones to connect. Parking outside the shop on the busy street to collect the next round of orders was even harder.
The guys in the butchers thought it was hilarious. What was a GIRL doing, doing the deliveries anyway?
But I had people I couldn’t let down, so I stuck with it for the agreed time.
It’s a story I can use as an example of being up for a challenge, tenacity, loyalty, etc.
What are the forgotten stories from your background that you can use in your talks?
Rachel Maunder is a communication skills and speaker...
However organised or disorganised you are, I’m guessing you see some value of having a designated place for everything: towels in a cupboard, books on the bookshelf, cutlery in the cutlery drawer.
Easier to find and easier to put away.
How hard could that be without those designated spaces? It’s the same when it comes to sharing your expertise through speaking.
Our brains like to store things, to file them away, so that when we learn something new about a familiar topic, it knows where to store it. If it’s a new topic, our brain needs to create a new storage container.
When you use a simple structure for your talk you’re helping your audience to use appropriate containers to classify what they learn from you. Without that structure, what are the chances of them retaining or retrieving the important parts when they’re scattered among everything else going on in their brain?
I exchanged a look of shared amusement with the woman behind the counter.
Another customer having a conversation on his mobile phone. He wasn’t being loud and there was nothing untoward about his conversation.
It was just that he was on a mobile phone.
One of the first ones that looked more like a leather-covered brick. It was the late 1980’s and mobile phones were a rare phenomenon.
So our amused look carried a ‘Get you!’ message and tbh, my thoughts were something like ‘What a poser!’ (My problem, I know – not his).
Fast forward 30+ years and seeing someone on their mobile is rarely story-worthy topic – but your stories about your first impressions of innovation can be.
Sharing how your attitude has changed, etc. can add humour and context to your message, can illustrated how thoughts and attitudes change, etc.
What’s your first memory of mobile phones?
Have you ever heard a presentation that felt it wasn’t meant for you? That perhaps the speaker was rolling out a talk they’d prepared for a different audience, and therefore didn’t quite resonate with you?
Context is such an important part of creating an engaging presentation.
Who’s in the audience? What are the common features that bring this group of people together?
Perhaps they all work in a similar industry, belong to the same network or organisation or have similar interests.
Whatever those commonalities are, make them your starting point for what to cover in your presentation. How much will they know already? How can you angle your content to resonate with them? Which story will they relate to?
Adding in just a phrase or two that let’s your audience see that you know who they are and how your content might relate to them makes a world of difference.
When you’re speaking in public, are you more likely to wing it or fully prepare?
I’ve seen several speakers come unstuck due, as they admitted, to lack of preparation.
Even if you’re usually able to wing it successfully, when sometimes extra nerves caused by a different situation, a change of circumstances or whatever kick in their usual style of winging it, speaking off the cuff or from the heart – however you like to describe it – failed them.
There’s no need to fully script your talk – unless you want to - and I would never advocate learning by heart, but having a plan and a simple structure gives you something to fall back on.
Know your key message, your key points, your opening and closing lines. It can be that simple.
Know those 4 things, keep to time and go for it – if that’s your preferred style.
Rachel Maunder is a communication skills and...
What’s your warm-up routine before you deliver your talk?
Do you even have a routine?
If the idea is new to you, here are just some of the things you might want to include:
Rachel Maunder is a communication skills and speaker coach...
What do you do when you’re asked to give a presentation and the one you’ve already prepared doesn’t quite match the brief?
I used to spend unnecessary time starting again from scratch, or even worse, turned down opportunities due to lack of time to prepare a new talk.
But not anymore. With a bit of creative crafting, it’s usually possible to adapt the piece you’ve already prepared.
Different angle? Spotlight the part of your content that touches on the new angle and bring that to the fore. Include another story to illustrate the angle.
Ask a reflective question inviting the audience to consider your content from the angle you’ve been asked to address.
Different audience? Include different stories more relevant to them. Include something to let them hear you know who they are and what they do.
Sometimes an added sentence, question or short story is all that’s needed.