We Are All TV Presenters

At a recent TV Presenting Course that we ran in Dublin, Ireland, it became very clear to me why most ‘presentation skills’ type courses fall short of achieving the results they should be getting – those results being a more confident, persuasive and eloquent speaker. In fact most of them miss the point completely! They fail to acknowledge the most important area of presenting – the voice.

A Speaker needs a voice! The spoken words must be the result of the 3 ‘P’s – Planning, Preparation & Performing (or Putting into Practise, if the word ‘performing’ frightens you!) Each have equal importance, and with a bit of persistence you will be amazed at how little time is required when you give each section it’s own value.

You see, an audience is not concerned with the Planning and Preparation, they only see and hear the Performance. The small window of opportunity that exists for you to speak, is what will motivate, inspire or persuade the listener to trust and believe in you. In a television programme the Presenter is the link between the ‘energy’ of the programme and the audience. Our screens are littered with examples of nonsense television with good Presenters and great subject matter with poor Presenters. Rarely do we see the best of content combined with the best Presenter performance, and when we do we over-ride all logic, cynicism and doubt and allow ourselves to be wholeheartedly taken into the speaker’s (or programme’s) world.

I have seen large, medium and small corporations spend fortunes on brochures, board rooms, PR – in fact all the things that make up the ‘corporate image’, and then fall flat on their faces when the ‘corporate voice’ – the voice that the customer hears – does not deliver the professionalism of the product, ethos or track record of the organisation. It amazes me how little vocal training many sales teams are given to help them maximise the small window of opportunity they have when in front of customers. The way I see it is: no sales = no business. Why take the risk of not ensuring your sales teams’ voices are the very best they can be?

So when I read or hear about courses that do not include at least a third of voice work delivered by voice specialists in their ‘presentation skills’ training, I realise that these people have no idea about courses they run, and have no idea how much value customers, clients and colleagues give to the vocal sound when making decisions. Call these courses ‘effective use of PowerPoint’, ‘content structures that help people understand’, ‘relax and de-stress’ or ‘how to sharpen your pencil’ – whatever – but do not call them ‘Presentation Skills’ if no serious time is given to the mechanics, physiology, psychology and delivery practises of the voice and vocal impact. This is like calling a course ‘Formula 1 Motor Racing Skills’, showing people maps of some race tracks, explaining the importance of driver focus, demonstrating how to change the engine oil and then, bizarrely, not giving them a F1 car with a skilled Instructor to guide them through their newly acquired skills!

(By the way Videoing participants and gratuitously pointing out the blatantly obvious doesn’t count! We are more interested in the cause, not the symptoms and we purposely ban video cameras from the first few days of our trainings. This ensures we guarantee long lasting change where the person no longer displays vocal and physical ‘oddities’. When our participants understand and are comfortable with their natural delivery styles and they can successfully combine this with their expert information, only then do we bring out the cameras as a means to achieve maximum effectiveness of the desired message.)

We all know the philosophical question – “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around tohear it, does it make a sound?” It demonstrates the dictum of ‘Esse est percipi – ‘ Tobe is to be perceived. This can be very easily  transferred to a sales, motivation, education or coaching environment. How often has a presentation ‘fallen in the forest’, and no one has heard it, acts on it, or even cares about it?!

In our ‘Secrets of Confident & Effective Speakers’ courses we continuously make the point that a listener doesn’t really care about the Presenters ‘stuff’ (their slides, sore throats, traffic jams, faulty projector, deadlines). An audience cares about what the Presenter says, how they say it, and most importantly how this makes the audience feel. This is what convinces them to believe, to follow, to buy!

So the next time you watch a TV programme, and you see a TV Presenter, realise that this 30 / 60 minute slot is the section on which you will judge the show, and not on the unseen weeks planning and preparation that has preceded the performance. To be at your best you must give equal time to rehearsing (or putting into practise) the skills of delivery. Only this gives you the best possible chance to do maximum justice to your integrity, ethos or product. This brings you and your message into the listeners present, and activates their response receptors. Planning, Preparation AND Performing. Does Your Performing do justice to your Planning and Preparation? Whether we like it or not, we are all TV Presenters!

Presentations – Stand Out Tip – Listen Actively

Standing out is a function of how your present yourself to others and how you react to others. The ability to be a good listener is a strong stand out quality.

However, you need to recognize what good listening is not. Obviously, it is not marginal listening — giving half an ear to the speaker while you’re watching television, reading the paper, or working on your computer. You might be surprised to know it’s also not evaluative listening — where you do hear the gist of what the speaker says, but you’re evaluating the content so you can prepare your response. The dead giveaway when you use this type of listening is when your response starts out with, “Yes, but…”

The best and most powerful form of listening is “active listening.” It fulfills two very basic human needs-to be heard and to be understood. There are three crucial steps to active listening. Think of the acronym EAR to help you remember these steps:

ENGAGE THE SPEAKER. In other words, show the speaker that you’re listening by looking him in the eye, nodding occasionally, showing appropriate facial expressions (a smile for good news, concern for distressing news). Project open and relaxed body language. Also keep in mind that total silence does not imply listening. Give vocal signals such as: “mm-hmm,” “yes,” “really?,” “I see,” etc.

ACTUALLY HEAR WHAT’S BEING SAID. This means you have to pay attention and process the information. You must concentrate on the content of the message, which is what the speaker is saying, plus the intent, which is what she’s feeling or what she means. It may help by repeating to yourself her key words or main ideas and also observing the nonverbal cues she’s giving.

RESPOND APPROPRIATELY. This third step is the key to effectively wielding the power of listening. Instead of saying, “Yes, but…”, you let the other party know you’ve heard and understood him. It can take three forms:

1. Paraphrasing. This means repeating the gist of the message. It’s generally preceded by, “So what you’re saying is…” or “In other words…” or “If I understand you correctly…” The ability to do this lets the speaker know you did in fact hear the content of what he said. The amazing thing about paraphrasing is that once people feel like you heard them, they can be more receptive and open to what you have to say.

2. Probing. This is a particularly important technique in diffusing the tension that comes with disagreement. After the speaker has made a statement, instead of launching into your rebuttal, you probe for more information. “Why do you think that?” “What’s the downside to that?” “Can you give me some examples?” This lets the speaker know you’re interested in hearing his side, which in turn will make him more likely to listen to your side. 

3. Reflecting back feelings. This is the finer-tuned skill of interpreting how the speaker feels about what she said. “You must be so proud,” or “That certainly must have made you angry,” or “I imagine you’re very hurt by that…” are examples of reflecting. This is the ultimate validation a speaker can receive: being heard and being understood. When you give that gift to others, it opens doors, breaks down barriers, reduces anger, decreases resistance.

 Listening actively is a magical skill. Its mastery can have a profound, positive impact on giving you “stand out” presence.

Business Presentations – How to Sell From the Platform

Business presentations are essentially about selling. Selling ideas: maybe you get people to change their behaviour, or give you an investment, or reverse a policy. Either way; getting an audience of business executives to buy requires a clear argument, and that requires a clear structure. Read on to get the formula.

Selling ideas in a presentation setting is much like selling face to face, your audience goes through a process of being dissatisfied, they recognise the benefits of change, and then you point them in the direction of a solution.

Taking clients through this sequence requires a highly structured process. One that is not well understood by many business presenters, though those that do understand and use it, sell more, quicker, and with less stress.

The process of selling complex ideas via a presentation is a three step system. In step one, the presenter should spend time developing the problem, in step two the solution is explained, and finally step three involves making specific recommendations and a call to action. Here’s what each step looks like in more detail.

    1. Develop the problem. This stage is essential because you first have to make sure that the audience understands why they need help. Isn’t it the case that if you offered cough medicine to someone who was well, they’d be likely to refuse it? But point out that they look a bit feverish and you may have a buyer. That’s exactly what you are doing in this stage; metaphorically pointing out that your audience might be ill. How you do it is to use case studies, examples and data to get agreement, both on the types and size of problems in your chosen topic.
    2. Show the direction of the solution. Note I have said direction of the solution, you don’t want to give away all the answers so that they can take your advice without paying for it. So your solution should provide value, but have a few critical implementation steps missing. Also it’s important to explain the benefits. Make sure the audience knows what they will gain by using your solution.
    3. Provide a call to action. Make sure you audience knows what to do next. Is it to go to your website? Then don’t leave it to chance, have your URL printed on paper and handed to the audience as they leave the room.

Additionally following this flow will make your presentation easier to build. Simply take the first heading, let’s call it “industry problems”, and write out 2-3 key points, then do the same for the other two sections. Finally under each point provide evidence to back up your argument.

Selling doesn’t need to be tough, like everything in life you just need the paint by numbers formula. So now you have it what are you waiting for, get going!