It's the absolute last thing you want to do, but it happens ... possibly without you even realizing it. Even presentations that have been carefully designed and practiced can have moments of unintentional boredom or can create annoyance in audience members. This happens when speakers inadvertently use phrases, some of which are commonly used in presentations, that make people want to say "Okay. Yeh, yeh, yeh. Keep it movin'" or "That's nice. What else ya got?
There is so much you want to cover and only so much time to do it. Subconsciously, you want your audience to fall as deeply in love with your topic as you are already in love with it. This tends to cause a problem.
But just a second … this is not to suggest there is something wrong with wanting your audience to find the same value in your content as you find in it. The challenge lies in this desire propelling you to share and share and share to the point you end up rambling, rambling, and rambling. By going off on tangents or losing your train of thought, you also lose your effectiveness and diminish your power with all of the spins and twirls and ups and downs and twists and turns you put in your message.
Most people have quirks when they present. And I'm sure, although I have put forth great effort to be aware of quirks and eliminate them, I have one, or two, or three, or ...
As a matter of fact, I recall several years back I collaborated with a friend and colleague to facilitate a workshop in the Denver area, and his use of the phrase "what-not" apparently caught my attention because I did not realize until after the workshop and while reading one participant's feedback on her survey that I had picked up on his use of that phrase and had incorporated it into the last two sessions I presented at the workshop! She had actually sat and counted the number of times I had used it! *gasp* (And to be honest, I recalled, while I was presenting, seeing this particular person in the audience snickering at times that were obviously out of context. It was all starting to come together ... LOL!)
But my goodness! I could not believe it! In retrospect, I had caught the "what-not" bug and was using the phrase like crazy! I had never done that before! (At least I do not recall doing so!) My colleague's use of it subconsciously caused me to use it.
This is what happened: We converge with interlocutors that we like or that we want to like us. This colleague who is also a friend and is one with whom I have a great professional relationship, so based on this phonetic and social selectivity, it was natural I would pick up on one of his catch phrases and use it myself or that I would ... converge with an interlocutor!
As I thought about the workshop and this participant's feedback, I could not help but to wonder (and worry!) if her focus on counting my "what-not's" interfered with her actual learning. I wondered if my temporary presentation misstep consumed her and subsequently caused her to lose an opportunity to learn. What had I done?!
The greatest goal of any presentation is to ensure learning takes place and that participants take action based on what they learn, so I got to thinking ... What plans can I put in place beforehand to provide my audiences with the most awesome learning experience possible? I came up with three ideas.
You have heard and seen them before ... those colleagues who sound infinitely more confident and commanding than ever and in such an incredibly pleasant way.
How do they do it?!
How. Do. They. Do. It?!
Is it volume? Tone? Pitch? Do they have one of those unique kinds of voices that draws people to them? Ah ... wait a minute. They were Communication majors in college. That's it. Or are they naturally great communicators, so out the window and off the table are the hopes of cracking the code and discovering their secret sauce?
Not so fast! Yes, we have colleagues who are innately positioned to consistently deliver a message and deliver it well. And others may have formal education or training in the areas of voice and diction.
Or - and this is the part you really want to hear (read) - in all frankness, none of that matters because, my friends, I have cracked the code! I have the secret sauce. And you are not going to believe how EASY it is! What's more is you are not going to believe that you already know how to do it!
Are you ready? This is for you, Nona!
(Because of the lists provided; this is best viewed on a laptop or desktop device rather than on a mobile device.)
Why wait until the student opinion surveys are tallied or until your dean, department head, or program manager evaluates you to find out how well you perform as an educator? And better yet why let someone else tell you whether you are doing a good job?! Harness the power of self-evaluation to assess your superstar status at the front of that room! (And if you conduct meetings, this is just as relevant! Simply exchange "students," "class," and "lesson" for "meeting attendees, "meeting," and "content/agenda.")
How exactly is this done? Simple! Ask and answer these questions at the conclusion of class (or a meeting!):
Almost every audience will have a difficult audience member. It is not what you want to hear, but it is the truth.
This is the person who is cranky for no apparent reason. This is the person who is known by colleagues and coworkers as being difficult and negative 24/7. This is the person who frowns at puppies, rainbows, or sunflowers. And the fact of the matter is you cannot control that person or what he/she says.
All you can do is control your response to him/her, which means you remain cool and calm and ignore the person's attitude for the most part. (Do not ignore the person. Ignore the attitude.) Oftentimes, if you are doing a great job with your presentation and others see that, because colleagues know this person to be something of a trouble-maker, they will address the person for you. And even in an audience where no one knows each other, if you're doing an outstanding job, you will have others who recognize this person is simply being difficult, and you may have a situation where that person gets isolated by the majority.
However, it becomes a real issue for the presenter when the audience or a heckler has some very good points that he/she brings up but for which you have not entirely prepared to address or simply did not anticipate that point would arise.
"Turn that up!" That's what you exclaim when your favorite track comes on, and that's what you want your audience to say ... in a way ....
You want everyone to fall in love with what you have to share and "turn up the volume" on your message, but you do not want anyone to have to put forth extra effort to actually hear what you say because your voice is not loud enough.
A speaker should always use a microphone. Many will share the sentiment that their voices carry, and that's a great asset for cheering at a football game or the like, but it is not most effective for the public speaking environment. Others have something of a fear of a mic, cringing at the sound of their voice being broadcast through speakers and wanting to stay as far away from a mic as possible. When you take to the stage, you should assume you have an important message because ... well ... you do. You've spent time researching it, crafting it, refining it, and you should want everyone to clearly hear you and your message because it's an important one.
For a speaking engagement, so that everyone hears your voice at the same volume no matter where he/she is seated in the room, a mic should be used if one is made available. I recommend you always ask well in advance of your event that one be provided for your use.
You should use a mic not only for the benefit of the audience but also for the purpose of ...
What if you could run meetings that have your teams knocking down the doors to get IN, not knocking down the doors to get OUT?!
Not at all.
Sounds like a thing of beauty?
Every one of your meetings can arouse interest, energy, and excitement from your team. No one will fall asleep in them. Your teams will stop looking at their watches and the clocks at the back of the room and on their devices. They will be more open to what you and others have to share. Your meetings can become some of the brightest, most productive parts of the week.
So how is it done?