"A succesful talk is a little miracle," TED curator Chris Anderson tells us in his Harvard Business Review article, "How to Give a Killer Presentation." (http://hbr.org/2013/06/how-to-give-a-killer-presentation/ar/5)
Indeed, it is. (To speak with this level of influence and impact, download my free cheat sheet, "4 Characteristics of an Influential Speaker.")
As an example, Anderson mentions Richard Turere (above), a 12-year-old Masai boy from Nairobi, Kenya, who invented a way to protect his father's cattle herd from lions. Richard's personal journey is an excellent example of the journey you must take your audiences on: one filled with human interest, a challenge, and a triumph.
Here are some techniques this TED professional shares, along with some of my own, for succeeding in the art of delivering a memorable presentation:
Frame your story. Find the right place to begin and to develop a succinct and logical arc of events. Share with audiences why you care so deeply about your topic, and why they should too. In my work as a speech coach, I call this "BLUF" for Bottom Line Up Front. Audiences need to know where you're going in your journey so they can follow you there.
Don't go wide, go deep. Too many speakers try to bring too much to a presentation. A talk is a finite window, and you should always keep in mind how much audiences can absorb and retain. Rather than a too-broad approach to your topic, give your listeners details and examples that bring your talk to life.
Tell a detective story. Anderson's advice is to present a problem and describe the search for a solution. Build in an "Aha!" moment, so the audience's perspective shifts. As I tell clients, the sheer delivery of information is seldom interesting; but the speaker who weaves that information into a narrative is on the path to success.
Here's some wisdom in this article that every speaker should take to heart:
Even if the topic is important, random pontification without narrative is always deeply unsatisfying. There’s no progression, and you don’t feel that you’re learning.
As Anderson reminds us, "Ideas and stories fascinate us; organizations bore us—they’re much harder to relate to." Business presenters of all types should remember this, but especially salespeople, who tend to extol their company, product, or service, while their audience is wondering, "But what does that have to do with us?" Remind us as listeners of the problem and then tell us how you can solve it or did solve it. We'll be eating out of your hand.
Build your confidence so your personality shines through. Most speakers employ a coping mechanism regarding public speaking that is self-defeating: they try to become someone they're not. They have the idea that speaking in public requires something above and beyond their ability to simply speak on their topic, and nothing could be further from the truth. Your personality, including your vulnerability, is what will help audiences relate to you. (Nervous? Here's my cheat sheet on "How to Calm Your Nerves Before Speaking," even if you only have 5 minutes to spare!)
Develop stage presence. That means learning how to give a performance. You and I have been cheated by our educational systems and business training into thinking that written communication is all-important. Conveying data, however, and seeking to be an expert, are strategies that can be equally unpalatable for an audience. Forget about presenting with a capital "P," and don't try to be authoritative. Simply be yourself—it's all you'll ever need to establish an intimate connection with listeners. In the Genard Method of public speaking training that I developed, honest performance is both the core and end-goal for every speaker.
Know what you are going to say at every moment. You needn't memorize your talk, because then you lose precious spontaneity. But be ready to know exactly what you want to say, and pay particular attention to transitions. They will assist an audience in following and being convinced by your argument. Here's how to use transitions to help shape your message.
And Anderson reminds us, "Getting the words, story, and substance right is a much bigger determinant of success or failure than how you stand or whether you’re visibly nervous." Remember that the more movement you show audiences, the more they will watch that, rather than paying attention to what you're saying. Generally, if you stand in one place and gesture naturally, your body language will compliment your content nicely.
The article ends with a reminder of something speakers and audiences have been learning for centuries concerning successful public speaking:
Presentations rise or fall on the quality of the idea, the narrative, and the passion of the speaker. It’s about substance, not speaking style or multimedia pyrotechnics. It’s fairly easy to “coach out” the problems in a talk, but there’s no way to “coach in” the basic story—the presenter has to have the raw material.
It's a lesson well worth remembering in our era, when a reliance on technology and on presenter sizzle has deflected attention from the "steak" of a talk . . . and what's at stake.
Key takeaways from this blog:
- To give a truly memorable presentation, take your audience on a journey.
- Frame your story and get your audience to care about the outcome.
- Limit the scope of what you're talking about, and delve deep there.
- Present a problem and describe the search for a solution.
- Develop stage presence, or the art of "being you."