We’re bringing our How To Be A Great Presenter class to Chicago on October 21, 2014. Want to know if this course is right for you or someone you know? Here’s a short video that gives you a sneak peek at the course.
I’ve just posted our latest online video course: How To Be A GREAT Presenter. It’s based on my book 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People. Here’s a little bit of information about the course:
For more information on this and all of our other courses: http://www.theteamw.com/#learn
To celebrate my latest book: 100 Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People, I had my good friends at Truscribe create an animated video with 5 of the 100 Things. Here it is! You can download a poster with the illustration from the video.
Your facial expressions and body language communicate information and affect how people react to you and your message. They can also cause other people to start feeling a certain way.
People imitate what they see — If you are smiling, they will tend to smile; if you are energetic yet relaxed, then your audience will tend to be energetic and relaxed too. Which means YOU have to make sure you are rested, prepared, relaxed, and passionate about your topic. When you are, those feelings are communicated through your words, tone of voice, and body language and are picked up and felt by your audience.
Mirror neurons firing — Let’s say you are watching your friend who is holding an ice cream cone that is starting to drip. Your friend lifts her arm to lick the dripping cone. Mirror neurons in your brain will fire as though you are lifting your arm (even though you aren’t).
Mirror neurons are the starting point of empathy — The latest theory is that mirror neurons are also the way we empathize with others. We are literally experiencing what others are experiencing through these mirror neurons, and that allows us to deeply understand how another person feels.
(V.S. Ramachandran has a great Ted talk on mirror neurons.)
When you are passionate about your topic your audience will be passionate — People like to watch and listen to someone who is animated and excited about what they are talking about. If your topic does get you excited, don’t hold back. Show how you feel. That feeling will be contagious. If you aren’t excited about what you are talking about, then reconsider the topic or your approach to it. You need to find an angle on the topic at hand that will get you excited.
This post concludes the series: Top Ten Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People. Besides this post here are the other 9 (links below) or check out my book – 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People (link is in the sidebar to the right):
Recently I attended a fund raiser. The speaker got up and gave a pretty good speech (I think he could have used a speech coach!), but at the end he didn’t have a call to action. There were people walking around with jars so you could donate, but no one had actually asked for the money.
In most presentations the reason you are giving the presentation is because you want people to take some kind of action. It might be to donate money, or time. Perhaps you are hoping they will think about a particular issue or topic in a different way. Maybe you want them to do something simple, such as attend a meeting the next day, or make a phone call to a colleague.
The best presentations always have a call to action — One reason is that the call to action gives structure and a “plot” to the rest of the presentation. In my book, 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People I show how to build the structure of the presentation around the call to action.
If you know what you want people to do, then you can figure out what it is you should say and present to them — What is it that you can ask your audience to do after your talk is over? Where are they at now, where do you want them to be, and what action can you realistically ask them to take?
Consider having more than one call to action (but no more than 3 or 4) — For example, if you are preparing a presentation in order to persuade people to donate to a charity, then the call to action will likely be something like writing out a check for $100 to the charity.
You can have more than one call to action, for example, you could have:
* Write out a check for $100 or fill out a credit card form
* Get three friends to donate as well
* Volunteer to help at the next fund-raising event
At the end of your presentations be very specific about what you want them to do — this is not the time to be vague. Be very specific about what they should do.
What do you think? Have you tried out using various calls to actions in your presentations?
There are many subtle and not so subtle ways that people change when they are together. Human behavior is a complex combination of interactions with other people. When people enter a room that is largely empty they will tend to position themselves evenly throughout the room. This means that while they are waiting for the presentation to start they will not necessarily be close to each other. The larger the room in relation to the number of people the bigger this effect will be.
If the room is full and there is lots of conversation it creates a sense of anticipation. It makes it seem that the presentation that is about to happen is important. It makes you, as the presenter, seem to be more important and therefore your message will seem more important.
Presenters are not immune to the subtle interactions either, so as a presenter when you enter and stand in front of a room that is buzzing with people and conversation it has an effect on you too. If you step into a room that is quiet and empty that will not energize you. Then there is a self-fulfilling prophecy — if you are energized you will give a better presentation and be more persuasive.
If possible you want to talk to the host of the event and see what you can do to get a room that will be mostly filled in order to have the most energy and excitement in the room before you start. This is true for small meetings as well as large. You want to avoid a large room with few people.
So is there anything you can do to avoid a half-filled room? Here are some of the ideas I’ve used:
Arrive early — You won’t be able to make any changes if you show up right before your presentation. Be sure to show up early to check-out the room and have the possibility of moving thing around.
Send a room plan ahead — If you know the expected size of the audience you can send a room layout chart ahead of time to the meeting host.
Re-arrange the furniture — If you are speaking in an auditorium you can’t move the chairs, but if you are in a room with movable chairs, and you show up early enough, then you can re-arrange the furniture. I would guess that I re-arrange the furniture 75% of the time when I show up in a room.
Re-arrange the objects in the room to affect where people sit — Take away any handouts, pads of paper, pens, etc, in one area of the room and concentrate all the materials together.
Talk to the meeting host ahead of time — Ask your hosts ahead of time how many people they are expecting, and then ask them to find a room that is the appropriate size so that it will be mostly filled.
What are your ideas? Do you find you are affected by how filled a room is? What have you tried to do to avoid half-filled rooms?
Everyone “talks” with their hands to some extent. Some people’s hand-talking or gesturing matches their message well. Other people have a tendency to make overly large gestures that can be distracting. Others don’t use their hands much at all. No matter which camp you fall into, it’s important to pay attention to your hand gestures while you are presenting, and perhaps try out some new ones. Some hand gestures are universal across all languages, geographies, and cultures:
Using no hand gestures at all — If you don’t use your hands at all when you are presenting that can be perceived as indifference. Your audience may feel that you don’t care about what you are talking about.
Hands hidden — If your audience can’t see your hands at all, it will be hard for them to trust you.
Hands open with palms up — If you gesture with your hands open and your palms up you are communicating that you are asking for something from the audience:
Hands open and your palms at a 45-degree angle — communicates that you are being honest and open.
Hands open with palms down — Communicates that you are certain about what you are talking about.
Hands at a 90-degree angle with your fingers together — communicates that you have expertise about what you are talking about.
Hands grasped in front of you — Communicates that you are nervous or tentative, as does touching your face, hair, or neck.
Hand gestures that are larger than the outlines of your body — communicates a large idea or concept. But if all your hand gestures are large you will communicate that you are chaotic or out of control. (See the photo at the top of the post).
Hand gestures can have cultural meanings — A few years ago I was a speaker at a conference in Lisbon, Portugal. It was my first time in Portugal, and I became instantly enamored of the special custard pastries that Lisbon and Portugal are known for. One morning I went into a bakery and ordered two of the pastries. I did so by holding up two fingers, similar to the “victory” or “peace” gesture in the United States. The person behind the counter proceeded to put three pastries in a box. I later learned that the gesture for two would have been to raise my thumb and index finger. Even though my thumb wasn’t showing, the person behind the counter thought I was signaling for three.
I was lucky that I didn’t get into more trouble than an extra pastry. Many hand gestures are not universal. Before speaking in a country or to a culture that you are not familiar with, do some research to find out which gestures in your presentation might be misunderstood, not understood at all, or offensive.
What do you think? Have you experimented with hand gestures during your presentations?
A great book on body language:
The best performance I’ve ever been to (the best music, dance, theatre, speech — any kind of performance) was by Bobby McFerrin. His performances involve music and extensive audience interaction. I saw him in a 1500-seat theatre in a small city in Wisconsin. The theatre was full, and from the start the audience was appreciative but reserved. But by the end of his 1.5-hour performance, he had the entire audience on the edge of their seats ready to do anything he asked of them, including coming up on stage. Bobby McFerrin is a master at getting people to participate.
Slow commitment and social validation — How does he get 1500 people to switch from being passive audience members to being part of the performance? Everyone is sitting in a theatre with strangers, and they don’t want to look silly. He gets them to first make just one small noise — sing a single, simple note, for just a second. Everyone makes the sound and then everyone laughs a little. He then builds on that one single note, and asks the audience for a little more, and a little more, often using his face and gestures only — until everyone is freely participating. By the end of the night people are singing, jumping up to come on stage with him, laughing, and fully involved in the performance.
If you’ve never seen Bobby McFerrin engage audiences, you may want to see a little bit of him in action in this 3-minute video:
A master at safety — Bobby McFerrin is really a master at making people feel safe. He never ridicules or makes fun of anyone. His body language and comments make everyone feel that they are doing great—doing exactly what he expects and knows they can do. It feels safe to participate.
If you want people to participate in an exercise, or group activity in your presentaton then you could take some hints from Bobby McFerrin:
- Start slow. Have people do one small activity before an activity that is longer or more complicated.
- Make sure it’s always safe. Don’t ask people to do anything they are not comfortable doing, especially at the beginning.
- Humor is good for making people relax, but don’t make fun of people as a form of humor, or the entire audience will start to feel unsafe.
- Research shows that synchronicity bonds people together — when people do something together, such as clap, laugh, raise their hand to a question, it bonds the group. A bonded group feels safe, so ask your audience to do something all together and the group will bond.
- Be confident. If you are the leader people will follow you.
What do you think? How do you make people feel safe during your presentations? What is your technique for encouraging participation?
If you are interested in improving your presentation and speaking skills then come join me for a 2-day workshop in Chicago.
Imagine that you are driving while listening to the radio and talking to a passenger sitting next to you. You are processing multiple sensory channels simultaneously. You are watching (the road), listening (to the radio and your friend), and thinking and talking. This doesn’t sound too difficult. People process multiple sensory channels all the time. But there is a limit. If one of the channels becomes complicated or difficult to process, then processing more than one channel can get very challenging. For example, what if there is a sudden storm while you are driving, and torrential rain makes it hard to see the road? It will start to get hard to pay attention to, or remember, what your friend is saying.
The visual channel trumps all others — Of all of our senses vision takes up the most area of our brains. Humans are very visual animals. So if there is something to listen to, or something to look at, looking will get first priority (an exception would be a large startling noise).
Listening and reading don’t mix well — During a presentation, there are two sensory channels that are most active: visual and auditory. Your audience might be looking at you while also looking at your slides. They are also listening to what you’re saying. If the slides are visuals that are easy to understand—such as photos, or diagrams that add extra context and meaning to the presentation—then the multiple channels are a positive experience for them. But if, instead, the slides are hard to read or complicated, then they will be distracted. In particular, the sensory combination of slides that are filled with text and a speaker who is talking is a bad combination. In order to understand the slides, your audience has to read. As soon as they are reading, they are not listening. Listening and reading are two sensory channels that compete with each other.
What to do instead of using wordy slides — You don’t have to use slides in a presentation:
- Put your presentation together without slides first, then decide if any of your points would be enhanced by the use of a visual example or illustration.
- If you use slides, use them for simple photos, diagrams, or illustrations.
- Don’t put more than a few words of text on a slide. If people are reading, then they aren’t listening to you.
- Know what to call slides with a lot of text on them? Your notes! If you feel you need slides with text, it’s probably because you need notes. Don’t show the audience your notes.
For more suggestions about how to be a great presenter, go to the rest of the posts in this series, and check out my latest book in the sidebar on the right: 100 Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People
I remember, many many years ago, when I wrote my Ph.D. thesis in graduate school, my first draft was done by hand (ok, now I’ve admitted that I’m quite old!). Most writing these days is done by typing on a keyboard. I write these blogs directly into my laptop using a keyboard, same thing with the books that I write, and most of my communications with friends and family is done via emails that I, of course, compose at my keyboard. There are still a few things I write “by hand” — my most important daily “to do” lists are done by hand, as well as most of my business planning. It’s interesting, when you stop to think about it, which things you write by hand versus with a keyboard. But does it matter? And as a presenter should you care how people might be taking notes during your presentation?
Writing things down increases commitment — If people write something down (compared to, for example, thinking it or speaking it out loud), it increases their commitment to the idea and to taking action. Deutsch and Gerard (1955) asked people to estimate the length of some lines. They were looking at the effect that others might have on decision making. They had other people who were part of the experiment estimate the length of the line incorrectly. Would the subjects go along with the incorrect estimates they were hearing from others, or would they stick (commit) to the answer they felt was correct? If you have read my blog post about social validation, you won’t be surprised to discover that the line length estimates were influenced by the what other people said.
Writing can over come the influence of social validation – But Deutsch and Gerard also looked at whether there were situations in which commitment to a decision would be stronger. Before hearing what others had to say on the length of the line:
- Group 1 wrote their estimates on paper. They were told not to sign the paper, and that they would not be turning in the sheets of paper.
- Group 2 wrote their estimates on a “magic pad,” and then lifted a sheet and the estimate was erased without anyone seeing it.
- Group 3 was told to write their estimates on paper, to sign their papers, and they were told that their papers would be collected at the end of the experiment.
Did the groups vary in terms of how strongly they stuck to their commitment of the length of the line? Group 2 was most likely to change their decisions and to give incorrect estimates. Groups 1 and 3 reacted the same way. They were five times less likely to change their answers. They were more committed to their original estimates, regardless of what they heard others say.
Signing their names or being told they were going to hand in their estimates did not seem to make a difference. Just the act of writing it on something relatively permanent was enough to make them commit.
Writing changes brain processing — Research by Shadmehr and Holcomb (1997) looked at brain activity when people wrote with something longhand (for example, with a pen or pencil) instead of typing on a keyboard. Writing involves different muscles than typing, and Shadmehr and Holcomb found that there was more memory consolidation when people were writing in longhand.
If you want people to commit to the call to action you have at the end of your presentation, and remember that commitment, consider having them write down their action step on a piece of paper before the presentation ends.
What do you think? Is your behavior different when you write things down “by hand”? Have you tried this in your presentations?
And for those of you who like to read the research:
Deutsch, Morton, and Harold B. Gerard. 1955. A study of normative and informational social influences upon individual judgment. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. Vol 51(3), 629-636.
Shadmehr, Reza and Holcomb, Henry H. 1997. “Neural Correlates of Memory Motor Consolidation.” Science 277. www.sciencemag.org