Chapter 7: Poor Presentation Skills
Siimon Reynolds confesses in this chapter that he was originally so scared of public speaking that he would fret for days beforehand. So much did he worry, that he was generally unable to concentrate on the tasks at hand. However, being able to deliver a noteworthy presentation became a real advantage and a source of personal and professional pride. Being comfortable when speaking – from a boardroom to a podium, creates a lasting impression and opens lots of doors. The good speakers get paid to share their ideas, the great speakers get paid many thousands of dollars.
The starting point should be perfecting the classic short speech. To do this remembering rules of three helps. The first rule of three is: Tell them what you are about to say; then say it, then tell them what you just said. The second is making a real effort to limit each topic and sub-topic to three points. This eliminates audience fatigue and concentration stress. This may look pretty obvious, however it is the speakers who forget this essential rule that make most of us never want to sit in an audience again. The third is; tell stories. Weaving stories, personal anecdotes and learning outcomes relevant to your theme is critical. The audience is actually hoping to be entertained, enthralled, given value… and people have been telling stories and listening to stories a whole lot longer than our generation.
Budding speakers should do some homework – this includes watching and listening to the great speakers providing some of the most stirring and memorable speeches ever delivered. Siimon suggests educating yourself through studying a short list containing such luminaries as Og Mandino, Brian Tracey, Tom Peters, Bill Clinton and Robin Sharma.
It is essential always to not be so comfortable with your audience that you believe you can “wing-it” – Potentially good speakers let themselves down in not doing homework, not practicing nor doing all the little steps that helped them start out.
Trying to memorise a speech is a high risk activity. Instead Siimon suggests committing to memory only the opening and the close. Active preparation however is best served by creating an initial written draft, practicing out loud many times and visualising the presentation being successfully delivered (Visualising was also mentioned as important in chapter two). Of course the preparation also extends to ensuring that you arrive and set up early – there is nothing more off putting to an audience than watching amateur hour. Being the speaker and also fumbling around trying to work out what cable goes where does affect the mental preparation and the image you are trying to portray.
When actually engaged in speaking, it is important to be alert to your body language. It is vital that hands and arms are used with confidence, to highlight a point; moving the feet a little also helps, but don’t fidget. As a speaker you must make eye contact with as many people as possible during the speech. Using appropriate pauses and necessary voice modulation keeps people alert and interested.
The fact is, people judge by appearance. If you have great ideas, but present them poorly, many people will fail to see their worth. You will often be beaten by a person with an inferior message but a superior way of presenting it.
1 – Taken from the book “Why People Fail – the sixteen obstacles to success and how to overcome them” – Siimon Reynolds
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