In the recently concluded Toastmasters conference, more than 1000 delegates attended and the organizing team had lined up10 speakers to share their views. It was an amazing learning opportunity for those who wanted to excel in life.
As a full time coach – my job revolves around just 2 words – asking questions and listening. I often get this question from leaders across organizations – How do THEY do it? How do they reach peak performance ? They here means GREATS from the fields. And most of the times, I don’t have a definite answer for that. One thing I always do however, is - I always observe ‘’greats’’ in all fields so that I can help many others to be ‘’greats’’ in their respective fields.
This conference was an eye opener, I learned some valuable lessons and approaches to speaking. Leaders often want this one answer - Is the message delivered well?
It is a difficult question but the saviour here is the NLP presupposition - the impact of the communication is the response you receive – what a saviour !
I believe effective public speaking or presentation skills are about following a process – if you see someone making a BIG IMPACT on the stage , a real good performance – BE ASSURED IT HAS COME FROM YEARS OF PRACTICE ! And RIGHT PRACTICES at that. Great coaches help you with RIGHT PRACTICE, they don’t focus on winning, they focus on right approaches, they focus on right process.
Of the 10 speakers, 4 of them made a huge impact, audience response to them was ‘’hysterical’’. As a coach, I was observing the people around me – the pin drop silence, the roaring laughter, the eagerness, the disappointment of the speaker leaving the stage and finally I asked this question – HOW DID THEY DO IT? LIKE HOW! ,
Here are the 4 influential approaches I learned from these speakers :
1) The Humble Speaker Approach - Audience members see a genuine man on the stage, sharing vulnerable stories, sharing failure stories, this helps the audience to connect and involve. The speaker on stage was a well-respected Filmmaker . He confessed ‘’ I don’t like speaking’’. And I have 10 minutes here and I will stop at 10 minutes. He loved questions and answers. He loved interactions too. People Loved him!
He spoke about his family. Stories from the family. Stories from the movie world. Stories from his life experience. IT CONNECTED WELL.
These kind of speaking styles are very easy to follow, but you need to be a credible person, you need to be a popular person otherwise people won’t take you seriously. I always recommend leaders of large organizations to follow these styles, many are reluctant to do this – because – they need to show their REAL FACE, talk about their failures and it is not a comfortable thing to do.
Once leaders are able to shed their image as LEADERS and portray an image of just another person with great experience, many things change. People will lean forward to listen. This is my personal GUARANTEE, use this tip in your presentation next time.
2) The Motivational Speaker Approach: This style of speaking is very common. You call yourself as a Motivational Speaker – you believe your objective is to MOTIVATE PEOPLE and get them to do something in life. Masses like Motivational speakers. They love to be associated with them – Motivational Speakers usually have a huge fan following. They appear to be GURUs. They could be religious leaders, professional speakers, trainers and coachers.
This style is relatively easy to follow, you need to have a theme for speaking – example – CHANGE - you need to build a story around this theme. This could be about your own experiences or experiences borrowed from other sources. This could also be challenging a status quo – so questions like this will be common – This happened to X , because they weren’t flexible enough to CHANGE. Do you want this happen to you?
Borrow stories from different sources like Internet, Whatsapp, Books - add humour – add stories – tweak humour – tweak stories. Motivational speaking approach is still the most prominent form of speaking but losing its sheen at a rapid phase.
Why is it losing sheen? Because most motivational speakers do not have anything unique to offer. In this social media age, almost everything is available on the internet – the speaker needs to be extremely careful about the content and stories – it can make or break you instantly.
If carefully used within the prescribed time frame – Motivational Speaking could be a crowd puller in a corporate world, not being preachy is important.
3) The Sales Man Speaking Approach :
How do salespeople traditionally greet each other? "Hi. Nice to meet you. I'm better than you."
Selling is a process , it is not just about speaking , but good speakers sell really fast. Speaking and Selling are interconnected. If you are a sales man, and you are unable to convince your audience then there must be some problem with your approach.
In the conference, I learned some valuable sales tips
a. Never call yourself as a sales man – if your business card or website has SALES in it – people are going to dislike you , remove it, it is the need of the hour , you probably can rephrase it as – Growth Expert, Changing Lives, Change Agent, Value expert. The audience will definitely be interested to listen to a Growth Expert than a Book Seller!
b. Sell your story or your Organizational Story: This is very important, VERY IMPORTANT. Don’t sell the product. Sell the story of your product. People love stories. Story should have a structure – it should tell the audience – who are you? Where did you start? Why did you start? How did it change your life – the product or service?
c. Create a real need in people’s mind: Imagine you have written a book on – how to think like a CEO, and your target audience is college students. Understand the need of your target audience, their aspirations, their hopes and their expectations from life. Good sales men will probably tell ‘’ I see 100 CEOs sitting in this room’’, “I see 100 CEOs sitting in this room who is going to change the world’’. ‘’ See the story of Facebook , in a short span of 10 years Mark ( if you don’t know who is Mark, mark my words – you are outdated J ) became the world’s popular name, next it could be you , in my book I have 10 strategies for you – that will make you think like a CEO.
Selling is in an important skill. if you think, you don’t have it, ACQUIRE IT!
4) Bringing Life to Boring Topics: The real challenge of any speaker is to bring LIFE to your topic. It is about heart. It is not about brain. When I coach leaders, mostly technical leaders – they find it extremely difficult to bring life to the topic. I learned from a historian – a speaker at the conference – you can bring life to any boring topic in the world. You heard it right. The Speaker mesmerized the audience with stories, jokes, and one liners. I believe this is something which everyone should master, it is the need of the hour.
Here is something which he did, that I believe, worked in his favour and I STRONGLY URGE all aspiring speakers to follow this process:
a. If you are going to talk on a dry subject, ensure you have some form of VISUAL communication – power point, chart papers or properties.
b. Every slide should tell us a story or an important event or something unique about the process or technology which most of the audience members have not heard of. Take an example of computer Language ‘’ Java’’ , before you scroll down - wait a moment we can make it interesting – by adding a story about Java, its importance, where does it play a vital role in technology , some real time use of Java platforms etc.
c. Present Moment Awareness – Acknowledge the fact that, IT IS A BORING SUBJECT, tell the audience that you are going to yawn in a few minutes, this will be an AWAKENING MOMENT FOR THE AUDIENCE - this is the right time to bring some jokes, bring some energy - do an activity to warm up. Ensure you have a lot of jokes related to the subject – this includes how people failed to understand the product or service.
The historian who was talking about Chennai’s culture – could take us to the PAST AND BRING SOME GOOD MEMORIES. He brought us to the present and cracked a lot of situational humour. He received more than 20 applauds, a series of non-stop laughter and finally a standing ovation. Audience wanted MORE of him!
Next time when you are getting ready for your technical presentation remember these points.
Overall, there is a huge demand for PRESENTING, especially in the corporate world -though the word is PRESENTING, it is not just for the eyes, it is for the ears too. We love to hear stories, don’t we? Let’s add stories. We love to hear good jokes, don’t we? Let’s add good jokes : tough task but can be learned. We all love to hear insights and perceptions, don’t we? Let’s add a different dimension to the topic.
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