For example…What can happen when your example isn’t real?

for example

In January of this year I attended a large corporate conference. At this event I heard one of the best inspirational speakers I have ever experienced (more on that later) as well as some less than inspirational (boring) presentations. Conferences are like that.

One presentation had an interesting “for example” moment. I am normally a big fan of using examples during presentations, but this time it bothered me. It took me awhile to figure it out what wasn’t right…and then it finally hit me. The example wasn’t real.

The speaker used a “for example” situation that was hypothetical. It was made up to support the point he was making, but it didn’t fit the real world. It was something I have never experienced in the many years I have been doing my day job.

As a speaker you have to be careful to choose real examples/experiences that will resonate with the audience. The speaker lost credibility with me when he used the unreal example. The word authenticity is used to today when talking about presentations – you want “an authentic audience experience”. The example wasn’t authentic.

The phrase “for example” paints a picture of a future state for your audience, but that picture must be believable and resonate with them. If you use a “for example this could happen” you had better know your audience very well, otherwise you could have just created an “inauthentic” moment and lost your credibility.

Joe Pops

R2BB

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Are you using “shiny happy people” in your slides?

shiny happy peopleA couple months ago I was asked to help some colleagues design and deliver a major presentation for a project at a children’s hospital.  We didn’t have much time to plan our strategy. To get started I did a short email survey asking everyone what they thought the main message/theme of the presentation should be, and I chatted with my colleagues who knew the audience best.   In the end we chose a simple but meaningful theme “It’s about the kids”.

We wanted the presentation visuals to amplify our message.  This turned out to be a challenge. All we could find in our marketing database were images of “shiny happy children”, positioned to show off the healthcare technologies.  Even the most professional stock images are composed versions of reality and (typically) look like stock images. In reality, children are rarely happy in the healthcare environment; health professionals make considerable effort to reduce children’s’ fear and anxiety.

I was pretty sure our audience at the children’s hospital would have seen enough stock images from the groups who presented before us.  We decided to take a different path, and use images of children we knew.  The team was great about volunteering pictures of their own children or grandchildren.  Some of the children of the local team had even been patients at the hospital in which we were presenting.  It was a case of ‘let the medium be the message’ … we had more than just a professional interest in their project.

At the end of the presentation we disclosed who the children were and each team member told a brief story about their picture.  The presentation ended with all of us in the same place: a bunch of people (parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles) talking about – and connecting over – our kids.  (Note:  for reasons of privacy our handouts did not include the pictures.)

Presentations are about people communicating with people, not marketing departments communicating with procurement departments.  Try using pictures of ‘real’ people in your next presentation (with their permission of course). The advantage is that your audience will know that they are speaking with real human beings.

Joe P

RTBB

R.E.M. – Shiny happy people 1991

 

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When you’re hot you’re hot … when you’re not you’re not.

hot youre hotIn 1971 country western singer Jerry Reed had a hit called “When you’re hot you’re hot … when you’re not you’re not”. This is a concept that all presenters can relate to. Do you have a hot connection with the audience, or … not?

Recently I was booked to do a sales presentation on a Monday, at 8:30 p.m. I knew it would be a long day for the audience members as most had been at work since 7:00 a.m. I also didn’t know them so there was no prior relationship to build on. With those two things in mind I felt I needed to design the presentation to be as entertaining as possible. I actually was not looking forward to presenting as I didn’t expect to be very effective. I was in for a pleasant surprise!

Even after their long workday (which included sitting through 3 other presentations on the same type of product) the audience had a lot of energy left. They understood my message, and I understood their perspective. It ended up being more of a conversation than a presentation. From the connection perspective we were both “hot”.

I think there were three things that helped create the connection between us:

  • I prepared the presentation with the audience, time of day, and their situation in mind. This is always important; it should be a key part of how you prepare for all presentations.
  • I touched base with each audience member briefly before I began speaking. This is new for me but it worked well. Before presentations I typically focus on the computer/projector, so I don’t get to (or take the time to) touch base with individuals. This time since I didn’t know anyone I took the opportunity to hand a business card to each person as they arrived (there were 10 of them). That action gave us a chance to connect for a few seconds, even just to say hello.
  • I focused more on the audience than the material while presenting. This forged the connection, and we related well to each other. This concept is sometimes referred to as “presence” or being in “second circle”.

The term “second circle” was coined by voice teacher Patsy Rodenburg. She has worked with actors like Dame Judi Dench and Ralph Fiennes so she speaks with authority. Some people refer to being in the “second circle” as being “on your game” or “in the zone”; basically it can be defined as a high state of awareness, concentration and connection.

Presenters want a ‘hot’ connection with their audience. If you feel you are not connecting try the three things that worked for me: preparing with the audience in mind, touch base with individual members before you begin, and when presenting focus more on the audience than your material.

Joe Pops

R2BB

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