Years ago I owned a Volkswagen Beetle convertible. Not the faux Beetle that people now drive, but a perfectly designed and very cool Beetle. I was a maniac with it bobbing my way in and out of the clogged streets in Boston. I was in my glory. I would beep constantly to get slower drivers to move over, and with the top down I’d be screaming at people to get out of the way. Boston also has a season of the year that precluded putting the top down. It’s called winter and lasts about 7 months.
One particular winter I was driving my Beetle when slush caked up on the horn located on the underside of the car. The salt and moisture did the horn in. You can only imagine the frustration inside the cabin of that little Beetle as I worked myself into a frazzle because I couldn’t communicate with my fellow drivers. I couldn’t beep, I couldn’t put the top down to yell, and it was even too cold to open the window to gesture.
The frustration of trying to communicate but being unable is something I try to help people overcome in workshops. There is no greater joy that being able to clearly articulate something which the receiver of that message hears and understands with clarity.
There are lots of steps to achieving that clarity. The first is for you to know what your message is. What are you trying to communicate and why? The test is the takeaway. After you have made your presentation, after you leave the room, what is the one thing you want the audience to remember? That one thing is the takeaway.
Devote your entire presentation to communicating that one thing. Make it the focus of the open. Demonstrate and prove it in the middle, and ask for action steps at the close based on it.
There are a few other things you need to do to focus your message on the audience, and there are a few things to do to help the audience focus their attention on you so they receive the message in the best possible way. Look confident with a Arnold Schwarzenegger posture and strong eye contact. Smile. Move your arms and hands. Walk around the room a bit if you are allowed. Tell stories. Speak in a strong voice. All of these things keep everyone more involved and focused on you.
The simple pleasure of being able to convey your message and helping the audience to receive it well is a thing of beauty.