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Inc.‘s Janice Tomich wrote this article, first published on Jun. 25, 2016:
When you’re giving a speech, you need to be different, like Mary Meeker was when she recently delivered her presentation at the 2016 Code Conference.
She challenged the trend of using an image-heavy presentation style delivering 213 data-dense slides in 24 minutes and 40 seconds while sharing her 2016 Trends Report.
Rather than speaking at great length to her slides, Ms. Meeker moved at lightning speed spending about seven seconds on each one.
Image-heavy presentations aren’t the only traditional trends you should avoid. A few more examples:
- Talk about yourself and your authority ad nauseam
- Blatantly repeat your key message three or more times
- Always use a slidedeck — no matter the circumstances
- Count the number of ums and ahs that pass your lips
- Sell from the stage
If you fall into the trap of misguided techniques, you’ll be lost in the sea of noise and no different than every other speaker.
How do I know? Whenever it’s possible, I attend my client’s presentations. I sit near the front, close to a wall, so I’m able to do an inconspicuous 180 to evaluate audience reactions. My eyes and ears are listening and watching for the nuances of persuasiveness — those that are connecting and the ones that aren’t.
Here are five things you can do instead of following old-school public speaking instructions if you want to excite your audience:
Provide a skinny version of your CV
I’m talking really skinny. Three or four lines that tell the story of why you are the person who is best suited to speak.
Have someone introduce you and be dogged about having them repeat your short bio word for word. If you’re not able to have someone introduce you with a delicate hand, thread your credentials throughout your speech in places where it aligns conceptually to illustrate your experience.
Be stealth-like when using repetition
What do you think when someone constantly repeats themself to try to persuade you? I think they’re either “a dog with a bone” and are in desperation mode to sell me, or they underestimate my intelligence.
You need to be savvy when building in repetition to have your key message stick into hearts and minds. Use a variety of learning methods or phrase your key message in different ways.
For example, you can ask a question to draw out what you want to be remembered, use the power of gestures to illuminate your point, or switch up every fifth image (the keystones) for contrast in your PowerPoint decks.
There are times you shouldn’t use a PowerPoint deck
We’ve been conditioned to believe that every presentation needs to use a slidedeck and that everyone who can turn on a computer is a graphic design pro.
Ask yourself, “Do I really need slides to support my ideas and can I make it look professional in the time I have?” Consider how you’ll stand out while being different than most presenters when you’re front and center and simply speaking of what you know.
No one is counting your verbal ticks
Toastmasters is a fantastic venue for practicing. It’s a low cost opportunity to create a habitual practice for improving your pubic speaking skills.
There is one aspect of Toastmasters I have issue with. It’s the counting of verbal ticks such as ums and ahs. If I had someone counting the number of times I say “right” it would stress me out.
That aside, you have your unique tics and nuances that make you, you, and without them, you’d come across as predictable and over polished. I do draw a line, though. When verbal ticks are distracting, work to alleviate them so you’ll communicate with easy flow.
It’s not OK to sell from the stage
If you’ve provided a stream of helpful information, those who see you as the one to solve their problem will reach out to you. Whether people contact you or not is one of the strongest indicators of a successful presentation.
You’ve been warned. Old tired techniques will irritate your audience and put up a barrier to winning them over. Excite them instead.
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