Content Reduces Nervousness

One of the overlooked tricks of helping people make a great presentation is the ability of the trainer to nudge the content a bit.  I use the word nudge because it isn’t our job to write the speech or presentation. But, it is our job to make our client confident. There are two ways I instill confidence in people: teaching them about important physical techniques to use when presenting; and, nudging the content so that they are comfortable saying the words in their own voice.

The physical techniques are things like eye contact, posture, strong voice, arms, hands and face animation, pausing and more when making a presentation. It telegraphs to the audience that the speaker is confident in what she is saying and that the audience should do as she asks (pretty much).

When I work with clients I usually start by getting them to understand what these techniques are and practice using them.

The next thing I focus on is the opening of the presentation. Here is where I start to nudge the content.  A fast story illustrates. I had a client who was a competent, experienced presenter. He was never great, but within the confines of a business setting, always capable.  He changed jobs and became a manager in a slightly different area of expertise than he had before.  In one of his initial presentations in the new position, he bombed. The presentation went very badly and he was a bit scarred by it.  He couldn’t get the bad experience out of his mind, and the whole scene replayed itself at subsequent presentations.   What made it all worse was that he was required to make the same presentation to other prospects in the ensuing months.  It got so bad that he no longer went to new business pitches, delegating the job to others.

When I started working with him I asked if he would make the presentation in question just to me. He did.  It started with a description of the company he worked for and a tedious agenda of all the things that would be covered in the presentation. Then launched in to a technical description of the service his firm was offering.

When he was finished I told him that generally I thought he did a fine job delivering it. But, that the content and flow of the presentation was just dreadful and the opening was guaranteed to put the audience to sleep.   Further, although I understood the nature of the service his new company offered, I never got what the benefit was to the audience – the prospects he was addressing. He immediately jumped up and agreed with me. He said he hated saying those things.  They weren’t him.

We then spent a lot of time discussing what the benefit really was.  Its value became crystal clear to me when he told a story about how a customer applied these services and turned them into a powerful tool that has made him the talk of the industry.   When my client told me this story he was super-charged, because he was so happy to talk about how he helped someone become more successful.

The content nudge that I suggested was pretty simple.  Start the presentation with the customer benefit story, Hi, I’m Joe and today I want to tell you about a client who had similar challenges to yours and how they solved it.  After he told the story he backed into the agenda by saying that we’ll cover today all of the steps that made our customer so successful, and has made our company so desirable.

And that was all I had to do to help him.  Once he a powerful story to start his presentation, he was jazzed.  He was able to give the pitch in his own voice, not the business-speak that his company suggested.  All of his bad memories from previous recent pitches were forgotten and he was a new man, on a mission.

But, the reason for this blog today is to say that many trainers as well as many of their clients don’t think it is the trainer’s job to get involved in content.  As one trainer said to me “my job is to show the speaker how to be more powerful no matter what garbage he has to say.”  I don’t agree. The best speakers are people who are confident in their abilities to communicate an important message.   At minimum there are two aspects to being a more confident speaker: the ability to use key physical techniques while presenting; and, the assuredness of knowing you have great material to say to the audience that will knock their socks off.

Recently I was at an acquaintance’s 70th birthday party.  My friend, who I went with to the party, was asked to give a toast. She was given about 20 minutes warning.  She was quite nervous and asked for my help.  I suggested a basic delivery- Thank the hosts for a truly fabulous party. Thank the birthday girl for all of her friendship.  Thank her for introducing you to Boston —and then I had an idea — thank her parents for their insight 70 years and 9 months ago for taking the first step in planning this terrific party. Then, get off the stage. My friend, now knowing she had a great line couldn’t wait to get in front of the audience. She went from being nervous to supremely confident because we nudged the content.  The audience loved every word she said.

 

Nudge, baby, nudge.

 

 

 

 

 

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