Saturday, March 30, 2013

Tips for Developing a Speaking "Presence"

"Presence" is hard to define, much less teach! It usually comes from within as a natural ability to enter a room, take control of the dynamics, and actually embrace and appreciate  the opportunity to talk to a room full of people—an audience.

Presence means enjoying being center stage, whether speaking at a TED Conference or being interviewed for what you hope will be a favorable review of your book. Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook and #10 on the Forbes list of the most powerful women in the world) and Thomas Siebel, founder of Siebel Systems and C3Energy (see previous post "Making a Connection") are people who relish being in front of a group and having many venues to speak and persuade.

People with presence generally dress well and like looking good. With those pesky details put away, they can concentrate on speaking directly to an audience—and they do so quite successfully! In fact, usually they over-prepare. To watch Sheryl Sandberg’s style of speaking, I suggest watching two of her commencement speeches: Barnard College in 2011 and Harvard Business School in June 2012.

To develop presence, you need to practice and speak at every opportunity. Speaking to entertain or persuade – if you're making a pitch for money – requires the same skills: excellent eye contact, an ability to "lean into" your audience, creative story telling, and sincerity.

Steve Jobs, who many regard as a terrific speaker, wasn’t always so. He had speech writers to take his thoughts and turn them into copy, coaches to show him how to deliver a speech with inflection and pauses, and then help blocking it out on stage and working on timing and transitions if using slides.

Learn to make eye contact with your audience. This requires practice and lots of it. Again, you need to practice because most people unconsciously favor one side of the room over another; it's work to connect with both sides of a room.

Use every opportunity to stand to deliver your message, answer or ask a question. Standing allows you to use your whole body, throw out energy and project your voice.

And finally, identify early on why you're speaking and what you want your audience to get. What should they take away from your speech or presentation? Limit your presentation to three concepts, as you won’t have time to develop more and an audience can’t remember more!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Six Tips for Creating and Using Slides in a Presentation

  1. Let’s start by stating the obvious: slides should support the spoken word, not compete with it. Whatever you’re speaking about should be reinforced by the text/visual. You are the director, so remember that a graphic (whether created in PowerPoint or Keynote) is more powerful than the speaker. Pay attention to the words on each slide. Your story should be synchronized and reinforced through the words or graphics.
  2. Speak no more than 20 minutes, or you risk losing your audience. You are the message; no matter how dynamic your presentation skills, an audience just can’t stay focused on your pitch because the mind is programmed to wander. Work to make a quick and impactful connection with your audience!
  3. A presentation with slides is not a speech.  Know the difference and don’t confuse the two mediums in delivering the message.
  4. Keep text on slides to a minimum. The fewer words on a slide, the better. Whenever possible, cut articles and modifiers and never let copy wrap to a second line.
  5. Use as many slides as you need to keep pace with your presentation.
  6. Text font size should be from 28 to 32 point, and use 40 point for slide titles.
Incorporate these tips into your next slide presentation to achieve a powerful pitch and connection with your audience.






Monday, March 11, 2013

Tips to Help You Make That Connection

Back in November 2011, Dorothy Rabinowitz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist and commentator, wrote in the Wall Street Journal about Newt Gingrich and his rise in the polls due to his debate performances.

Rabinowitz closed her editorial by musing that “No candidate in the field comes close to his talent for connection. There’s no underestimating the importance of such a power in the presidential election ahead or any other one.”

Despite his considerable ability to connect with an audience, Newt didn’t get the nomination. When the debates were finished, front runner Mitt Romney proved again and again that he had little talent to move voters emotionally or get out the vote. President Obama, meanwhile, continued to perform before adoring crowds, effectively illustrating his ability to engage and connect with voters.

I recently attended the AGC Partners Information Securityand Emerging Growth Conference in San Francisco. At noon – 12:05, to be exact – I slipped into an aisle seat just in time to hear a keynote speech by Thomas Siebel, founder of Siebel Systems and CEO of his most recent software company, C3 Energy.

Siebel began his presentation by immediately coming down from the stage at the far end of the room and walking briskly up the center aisle, all the while talking and making eye contact with as many in the audience as possible. His enthusiasm for what C3 Energy was accomplishing was contagious. Siebel was having a good time and clearly wanted us to join him.
His slides could have benefited from clearer design and larger type, but Siebel nevertheless used them well because I found myself concentrating hard to decode the graphics and understand the message. His delivery was so persuasive that despite my misgivings, I found myself wanting to please him, connect with him, and engage with his story.
Within minutes we were all in the speech together as Siebel became a cheerleader, explaining the early success of C3 Energy. He made a connection with his audience on many levels, and the positive energy flowing between the audience and speaker was quite amazing.
For a connection to be successful, energy and enthusiasm must flow both ways. Imagine a line of arrows on a circulating conveyor belt and you’ll begin to understand the physics of an unbroken connection.
So how do you master the dynamics of connecting successfully with an audience? Speak often and be enthusiastic and passionate about what you have to say. I suspect Tom Siebel has given hundreds of speeches. But regardless of the number of speeches he’s delivered, his speech had a freshness and newness that could come only from a genuine desire to teach and share his vision.
Making a dynamic and memorable connection with an audience may sound easy, but it isn’t.  It takes practice and lots of it. It means ramping up your enthusiasm and working the crowd, whether in a small room or conference hall. It means caring about the quality of the experience gained by the people who have come to hear you speak. It means experimenting with humor or pathos, as both can work wonders in forging a connection.
Study master communicators. No time? Check a news feed. Today the new Pope Francis is in the news constantly and displaying an ability to connect with old and young through his humility and straightforward style.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York who was also in the running, has a different way of communicating. He isn’t afraid to use emotion and is a skilled humorist who delights in turning the negative into a positive.
When asked about the church teachings, Dolan described them as a gift and said, “Let’s perhaps work on a way to wrap it in a more attractive way.” Whether in Italy or New York, Cardinal Dolan has an infectious ability to connect with an audience by delivering enthusiasm and joy.
Making a connection usually means wanting to change hearts and minds, to share knowledge, to make sure that the audience leaves with more than they expected to get.