3 “pick up and go” ways to more effective presenting

by Daniel Batten on January 24, 2010

That was the question I asked myself this morning when a friend emailed me asking for some tips. I know that not everyone is going to enrol in my Standout Speaker course straight away – but everyone speaks, and everyone becomes more effective and confident when you speak better to a group. So here is a gift in the form of three top tips that you can use, send to other people who speak, and start to apply right away. There’s a lot more to it, but these basics will get you started today.

Before I do this – can I request something … please don’t read this unless you are serious about using the tools. Otherwise what you read will be of no value to you. Instead, make a commitment to do it the very next time you speak.

The 3 most important things

Tip #1: Structure your entire talk around stories. Tell a story – make a point, tell a story – make a point, tell a story – make a point … sum it up, then get off the stage.

Why?: humans are hard-wired to learn through story. Pictures and analogies are great for right-brain thinkers; numerical lists (ie: the top 5 reasons …) are great for right-brain thinkers, but story allows you do take both types of people on board right away. You can embed statistics in a story. You can create pictures and anecdotes in a story. Numerous statistical studies have proven that people forget facts but remember and repeat stories. You must learn to be a better storyteller no matter what your job is if you ever talk to anyone else and try to enrol them in your project/ vision/ mission / idea / product / cause.

How?: “Have you ever told a story that went all over the place? Have you ever given one? The problem is the story didn’t start off in the right place”. (Craig Valentine, Keynote Speaker and 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking – get his book – read his blog, he’s an absolute master). Every story must start off with a foundational phrase. A foundational phrase is a phrase fewer than 10 words that sums up what your story is about. Start with this. Then and only then start writing your story. Then edit your story and take out anything that doesn’t support the phrase.

For example, in one of my keynotes I use the foundational phrase is “your feet can’t move when your heart stands still”. In other words – you can only move so far when you are not following your passion. The story is about one company I started that I was not passionate about, and what happened as a result. That phrase guides all the other content of the story. Say this phrase at the beginning, then again at the end.

Tip # 2: Use powerpoint as a tool not a master. Whether you read Carmine Gallo, Matt Church, Guy Kawasaki or any guru on presentation – they are 100% united on the way to use powerpoint. That’s because research was done on how people process information – and it showed that the traditional bullet-point powerpoint style simply does not work. So why do people do it? Same reason people do most things: it has become a norm. If you want to stand out from the norm and be remembered – do this instead:

– one picture, one phrase, one sentence-long explanation per slide. Use hi-res images and yes its worth paying for them (iStockphoto or flikr are among the best).
– choose an image that expresses the idea you want to express: be creative. For example I use an image of a newborn grasping the finger of its father under the point “vulnerability” in a business keynote.
– use the “B” key – this blacks out your slides so you can take centre-stage again.
– don’t use bullet points

Tip#3: Remove all ums  from your language – and replace them with pauses. During one of my seminars I take people through an exercise that immeditately reduces the um/ah factor and encourages pausing. But you don’t need to wait for that – you can get started now. What I suggest is

– record yourself reading out a paragraph from any book
– read the same passage putting in “ums” and “ahs” at a conversational frequency.
– read the same passage, replacing “ums and ahs” with pauses.
Listen to the difference. The difference in your ability to process what you are hearing is like night and day. Hearing is believing – so hearing this, you’ll immediately start using ums and ahs a lot less. This exercise doesn’t work if you imagine it. It takes 5 minutes, but the difference it makes will be yours for life.

So there you have it. Above all – have fun with it and be you … but a heightened version of you.

PS: Learning to speak is one of the most rewarding investments you can make in the world. If you have a message you want people to hear or if you just want your teenager to tidy up their room, I strongly urge you to invest in getting real good at this. Check out the links I’ve given, get Craig’s book. Recommend this post to people you care about that need to learn to speak better. Do my course. Whatever. But do something. Ideas are commodities, but the ability to express them makes you a standout.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Simon Fawkes February 7, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Three very useful tips that I will put in practice today as I prepare a major presentation to launch a new technology next week.

I like the emphasis on stories, pictures and no bullet points.

danielbatten February 10, 2010 at 1:45 am

cheers Simon. Let me know how the presentation went.

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