What does the first sentence of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and the average person getting ready to give a presentation have in common?
It doesn’t take much to guess, because many of us have been there before: knees weak, heavy arms, something to do with mom’s spaghetti, I think you get the picture. While many people are completely fine when it comes to interacting with small groups of people or even close friends, all of that changes as soon as we are put in front of a large or even medium-sized group of strangers, coworkers, board members, or classmates. We freeze. We choke. We put on the least inspiring performance of our lives. Instead of freezing next time it comes to deliver a speech or presentation, find yourself performing better and captivating your audience by taking the time to focus on following a winning formula: Energy + Experientials + Empowerment = Engagement.
If I ask if you have ever experienced “Death by PowerPoint” or “Death By Monotony,” chances are you would smile knowingly as an image of a fairly recent presentation or speaker was conjured up in your mind. We’ve all been there. We’ve all (maybe) delivered one. And we’ve all hated the experience on both sides. On the other hand, some of us can all attest to the insanity that is “Death by Enthusiasm” or “How-Does-This-Person-Keep-Talking-Wow-Who-Let-The-Energizer-Bunny-Into-The-Room” type of presentation. As good-intentioned as this person is, it can be a lot to handle and too much to truly learn anything as we focus on their presumed madness instead of the material.
In order to find the proper balance, check your energy at the door. As we listen to someone present, we tend to remember the beginning and the end of the presentation the most. Start with not enough energy, the audience will become disengaged. Start with too much energy, and you, not your message, becomes the star of the show. To combat this, take a moment before you walk to the front of the room, and ask yourself, “On a scale of 1-10, how is my perceived energy?” Energy too low and find yourself thinking it’s below a 7? Pump it up. Energy too high and find yourself at an 11? Bring it slightly into check. By simply being aware of your energy, it will be possible for you to keep your audience interested and engaged.
Make things interesting, and get your audience involved. In this case, experientials do not necessarily mean making your audience jump out of your seat and scream affirmations at the top of their lungs (although this can still be a fun thing to do). Simply, allow them to draw upon your stories and their own lives. It doesn’t matter how pertinent you think your message is. If the audience can’t relate or connect or see how it applies, then you’ve lost the whole battle. Take the time to paint a picture, or even better, let the audience paint the picture for themselves.
Imagine you’re a carpenter helping your great (but somewhat clueless) friend to build a house. You can tell them that they need a hammer and nails to put together the pieces of wood, but if they don’t know how to use a hammer, the information that you’re giving them is useless without some more direction and advice. Similarly, if you’re trying to teach them to use a hammer and they want to use screws and a screwdriver, your message won’t resonate and get through to them. You both think that you just wasted your time, and everyone’s back to step one.
If the audience doesn’t do anything with what you gave them, why did you give them anything in the first place? Even if you give them something to walk away with, they need to see how it applies to their lives. Don’t tell them to change the world (build a house) without giving them a direction of how to do it (putting the pieces of wood together), and if you give a suggestion that doesn’t resonate, find out why. If you’re showing them how to use a hammer and they want to use a screwdriver, the same outcome is being fulfilled, even though the process is different. Work through that dissonance, and give them something to walk away with that can make a difference in their lives. And sometimes, not everyone will get the message. And that’s okay. As cliche as it sounds, one person may not be able to change the world, but it is still possible to change the world for one person.
While this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of being a better speaker, it’s definitely a good start. Take time to focus on your energy and experientials, empower your audience to make a difference, and overall keep them engaged through the entire process. Keep practicing. Keep leading. Keep spreading your message to the world.
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