Let’s face it. Most of us are not comfortable speaking in front of groups, especially when giving formal speeches or presentations. Standing on stage under bright lights, with all those blank faces staring at you, can be incredibly nerve racking. In fact, some people tremble at the mere thought of public speaking.
Did you know the fear of public humiliation is greater than the fear of death? It’s universally true across all cultures. It’s why most people are deathly afraid of public speaking.
Now here’s the paradox. To reach that “next level” of success, socially and professionally, the ability to speak in front of a group is a fundamental necessity. Overcoming this fear will release your untapped potential. It will unlock opportunities that you may currently find unattainable.
One of the most important life skills is communication. Being able to effectively communicate to groups of people gives you an incredible advantage.
Sooner or later you will be presenting. Maybe you need to pitch a proposal at a company meeting… give a sales presentation to prospective clients… or something as simple as voicing your opinion in front of some friends or colleagues. No matter how big or small your audience, the following 5 Tips will help you deliver persuasive, powerful presentations – guaranteed!
…But first thing’s first! I am not a professional speaker. I was no less afraid of public speaking than the next person. When I was young I avoided large groups. They intimidated me. So it wasn’t in my scope of reality to speak to a group of people!
Then as I got older I realized that shyness and greatness don’t mix.
Through training, I overcame that barrier. Not only did I learn to speak in front of a group, I learned how to present. My fear of speaking was replaced with the confidence to deliver impactful presentations to over a hundred people at a time. Now I’m even more comfortable on TV and on camera. So I can say first-hand that applying these skills has absolutely improved my life!
There are a lot of good resources for public speaking. You can find speaking groups, (like Toastmasters), in every major city. It’s a terrific way to develop some speaking skills. But, what I’m about to share with you is far more valuable than speaking skills alone. I’m not going to talk about articulation, creative use of language, vocal variety, filler words, verbal crutches, hand gestures, and other techniques.
Although public speaking techniques are invaluable for giving speeches, presentations are more interactive and often require facilitating audience engagement. When you’re able to deliver captivating presentations, every aspect of your public speaking skills will improve automatically.
The magic of a powerful presentation is in the ability to make an emotional connection and build trust.
This is achieved by creating the proper setting, or [context], which engages your audience as part of your presentation. Logic, facts and figures may build interest and even impress your audience. However, it won’t spark the emotional motivation that decisions are made from. And, it certainly isn’t enough to earn their trust. Win over your audience by speaking to their hearts, not their minds. Remember, presenting is “facilitating a conversation”. It’s not lecturing.
Creating context is how the best speakers in the world influence and inspire. The process can be so subtle that unless you know what to look for, you just think they’re amazing speakers – which of course they are! The point is, it can be duplicated. The process will even give you instant confidence. How’s that for a great by-product?
…Communication is an emotional contact sport. Presenting to groups is no different. The common mistake is to think that presenting is a one-way street.
5 Tips to Connect With Your Audience:
Yes, it’s your audience. And, no matter what you previously thought, “presenting” is two-way communication…even if you’re doing all the talking!
Remember, the majority of all communication is non-verbal. Just because the audience isn’t talking doesn’t mean they’re not communicating with you. You just gotta learn to “listen”.
1. Get Present:
It’s called present-ing for a reason, so be in the now. This is one of the most overlooked factors in giving presentations. It’s so easy to get caught up in your “content” or presentation notes that you may as well be speaking to a wall.
There’s a story of an actress who was having a conversation at a party. She talked about herself for 20 minutes then asked, “Enough about me. How did you like my last movie?”
Yes… you may have the stage, but it’s not all-about-you!
Your audience is consciously or subconsciously looking for [what's in it for them]. For the most part, they’re watching and listening to you for self-serving reasons. Address those reasons and you’ll get their undivided attention.
Remember, in a presentation you’re directing “a conversation”. Yours is verbal and theirs is non-verbal. Take moments to stay connected to your listeners. Just as you would make eye contact in a one-on-one conversation, continually scan the room and make your audience feel as if you’re talking to them individually. Notice their physical cues and responses during your presentation.
Not everyone has the ability to give a presentation or deliver a speech without using notes, and that’s totally fine. Notes are useful and sometimes necessary, as long as they’re not a crutch. If your face is buried in your notes, you’re not connecting with the audience. That means you’re definitely not present with them.
…Stay connected with your audience by “staying present”.
2. Enroll the Audience:
Enrolling questions are questions that engage listeners into participation. There are 3 main benefits of using enrolling questions in your presentation:
#1- Questions hook the mind. This allows listeners to at least mentally participate in your presentation, not just sit and listen. Remember, you’re leading a conversation and not a lecture. Get them to interact with you by asking questions that will lead into key points of your presentation.
The average adult attention span is probably shorter than the length of your presentation. It’s even shorter with kids. So use questions to get them to focus on your presentation, instead of the gazillion things going on in their personal lives. (Considering the average internet user’s attention span is in the seconds, congratulations! You’re officially above average!)
#2 – Addressing their questions is the way to bridge trust. If your audience doesn’t trust you and thinks you’re just “selling” or manipulating, you’ve already lost them.
Use questions that are relevant to your listeners’ interests. Your goal is 100% enrollment – your entire audience. If one or two people lose interest, it signals others to do the same. It only takes one person to trigger an episode in a group dynamic.
Participation is the key to retention and asking enrolling questions is the secret to participation. So use the universal enrollment question, “How Many Of You…?” (HMOY)
“How Many Of You would like to be a captivating speaker?” “How Many Of You would like to have the confidence of a world class leader?”
Business coaches, motivational speakers and exceptional salesmen all use the universal enrollment question. We’ve all heard these kinds of questions. And facilitated properly, it never gets old. Facilitated properly, it always works.
It’s good to ask 2 questions at a time – one question, and then it’s opposite. This way you get 100% enrollment. For example:
“How Many Of You are comfortable presenting to large groups?” (response)….”Thank You. How Many Of You are not comfortable presenting to large groups?” (response)…”Thank You.”
Of course not everyone will physically participate, even though you’ve asked opposing questions. It’s okay because just asking the question will mentally grab their attention.
Key Point: Asking enrolling questions alone isn’t enough to fully engage the audience into participation. Physically demonstrate the Response You Want. If you want them to raise their hands in answering your questions, raise your hand!
Enthusiasm is contagious! If you raise your hand halfway, most of your audience may only flip their hand up at the wrist. Raise your hand high, with energy and enthusiasm, and the audience will more likely raise their hands at least halfway up. If you’re connected with the audience, they’ll follow your physical commands without resistance. If not, it’s a cue to get present and re-connect. I encourage you to test this!
Another important point when asking enrolling questions is to thank the audience each time they respond. This is an important part of the enrollment process. It will help you gain trust by appreciating your audience.
…Use enrolling questions > Model the response you want > Thank the audience when they participate.
3. Address Their Physical/Mental/Emotional States:
Have you ever shifted in your seat to get comfortable during a lecture? Ever change leg positions or arch your back to stretch while seated? Ever need to take a big deep breath to stay focused and energized?
Of course!…Did you take a deep breath just now?
This is called a state change. While listening to a speaker, we periodically need to “change our state.” We subconsciously do this to release discomfort, or to “refresh” ourselves so our attention doesn’t drift off. As a listener this helps us focus. Now as a speaker, it usually means your audience is bored, uncomfortable or in disagreement with you.
What if you could use state changes to your advantage, instead of something to worry about during your presentation? How valuable would that be for your confidence? Here’s where delivering a presentation gets fun! (Imagine… public speaking can be fun!)
Have you ever been to a seminar and noticed how often the speaker will ask questions to get you to raise your hand?…And every so often they may even get you to stand up or perform some kind of physical movement.
A lot of people associate this with motivational lectures – to get you energized. That’s true, and it’s actually much more. Did you ever think that it’s an integral part of the entire presentation process? In fact, it’s carefully thought out. It’s usually so subtle that most people don’t realize the intent behind it.
Having good content in your presentation may get listeners interested. However, that’s not always enough for them to commit to a decision inspired by your presentation. How you deliver your presentation is everything.
While observing video playback of various seminars, it was discovered that the entire audience would periodically shift in their seats. Here’s why…
Like a computer, your brain is constantly processing information at lightning speed. It’s processing millions of bits of information per second. Your audience is subconsciously picking up tons of information from the words you’re using, your vocal tone, body language, other people in the audience, etc. It processes it all and comes up with an emotional feeling, mental thought, physical sensation, or a combination of the three. This dictates their [energetic state].
This “state” must be constantly addressed in order to retain their attention – more accurately, to retain their interest. Otherwise you’ll lose them through the overwhelming amount of information you’re blasting at them, or merely through sheer boredom.
Just as you periodically need to hit the [refresh button] on your internet browser, the processor in our brains need to be refreshed too! Mental, physical and emotional states are all closely connected. Change one and you simultaneously influence the other two. Studies have shown that the fastest way to change someone’s state is through a physical motion.
Knowing this, you can facilitate state changes in your audience at will, during your presentation. It’s not to be mistaken with manipulation. It’s the secret to keeping your audience focused and engaged.
If you don’t facilitate state changes, your audience will unconsciously do them on their own. And that could mean you’ve momentarily lost them. If you’ve even momentarily lost them, you’re not communicating effectively.
Remember, they’ll only retain about 10% of what you said. But, they’ll always remember how you made them feel!…and most decisions are based on emotions – not logic. Logic is how decisions are later justified.
This is why professional speakers put so much emphasis on how their message is delivered – cause context, (how it’s said) can be more important than content, (what is said).
…Facilitate “state changes” to get keep the audience engaged.
4. Acknowledge & Thank Your Audience:
Everyone has an inner skeptic. It’s healthy, to some degree. But as a speaker, a skeptical audience is intimidating. Unless your audience already knows you, they’re probably skeptical while open-minded at the same time. Those odds can quickly change for you or against you. It can happen faster than you can say (or don’t say) “anything.” So let’s increase those odds in your favor!
A key part of delivering a powerful presentation is to build trust. This includes addressing the audience’s inner skeptic during your presentation. This is commonly known as addressing [WIIFM's] or What’s In It For Me?
…Meaning, what’s in it for your listeners? You may have something valuable to share, but is it important to them? What are some obvious questions your listeners may have in order to peak their interest and gain their trust?
Many people, understandably, want to avoid controversy and “hot topics” during a presentation. Objections can be scary to face head on, especially when unprepared and under the pressure of a large group! But completely avoiding them during your presentation has been proven to be a huge mistake!
There’s no faster way to lose credibility, and a listener’s interest, than to avoid WIIFM’s and not address obvious objections.
This one point underlines the core reason most people are afraid of public speaking – the universal fear of public humiliation. Ironically, hidden in the fearsome WIIFM’s and objections lies the secret to making quantum leaps in the power of your presentations.
Take the time to anticipate and prepare for major WIIFM’s and objections. Even if nobody verbalizes them, someone is thinking about them. And if someone is thinking about them, others probably are too. And if your audience is thinking about their objections instead of listening to your presentation, they may be in disagreement with you. Which means you’ve momentarily lost the connection.
WIIFM’s and objections may or may not be the same. A listener may not have any objections but simply aren’t interested cause they don’t see any personal relevance, (WIIFM). Or, someone can be interested and engaged while being skeptical (sees the relevance but has objections).
Either way, making an emotional connection is the key to a powerful presentation. Why do you think testimonials have proven to be more effective than selling facts and features?
I can’t tell you how powerful it is to address WIIFM’s and objections during your presentation. It skyrockets your credibility and further engages your audience for a fantastic presentation.
Remember, it’s imperative to thank your audience for their time and participation….Not just at the end of your presentation, but throughout your entire presentation. It’s a natural human need to feel valued. Extend your audience’s trust by genuinely appreciating them.
…Acknowledge the audience’s WIIFM’s and major objections.
…Thank them for their time, participation, and/or money.
5. Call To Action: