Presenting in 3D

3D is the big draw. Or maybe not, according to certain sources, but hopefully you can understand its draw.   So many childrens’ movies today are in 3D.  We want to feel like we can touch the movie, like we can just about take part in it. We see the need for interaction on the internet.  Marketing no longer comes solely from the company.  Today, the end user or consumer is one of the most important components in marketing.  Web 2.0 brings the user into the story to contribute content. We don’t want to be told the story- we want to be in it or in fact be the story.  But you already know that.

Now think of presentations. They, too, must be three dimensional.  As speakers, we need to be able to step out of our own dimension and into the audience. We need to touch our audience, to bring them into the experience.  This calls for a breakdown of barriers, which may come in the form of a lecturn or sometimes a dry speech.  Rather, we need to connect through an infectious smile or a hand gesture that helps illustrate the point.  A memorable story or example can help drive the point home.

Take a figurative and literal step closer to your audience and bring the presentation from its status as a necessary evil to an opportunity to share, enlighten, and connect with other people.   Take a breath.  Be human.  Highlight what we all have in common. Be loud enough to be heard, if you believe that what you have to say matters.  Be relevant to your audience with words and language they can not only understand but identify with and repeat, thus taking your message further.

Be the 3D blockbuster you have the potential to be.

Fifty Shades of Great

Yes, I did it. I made reference to the hugely successful trilogy written by E. L. James currently conquering the world.  But it’s not really what I’m addressing.  I’m addressing the superlative in English.  By now we know that there are many ways to say things.  I emphasize this to students, as I dissuade them from panicking when they forget a word.  I often reference the “basket of words,” we have in English to describe things. It’s a pretty rich language in that respect. Difficult? Yes. Replete with exceptions? Yes. But also rich.

 One student of mine would often use the word amazing when describing any number of things, ranging from a song or piece of music to how she feels when she has a novel idea.  Together we worked on alternatives to amazing. There’s nothing wrong with using that word, but I just wanted her to have some variety in expressing herself.  Non native English speakers often feel as if when they speak in English, they lose part of their personality, their style,  or their tone, and what’s left may be understandable English, but a part of them is missing from the communication.  Another example was when she acquired the word vast, which has a much richer and descriptive connotation than big, when describing the volume of something very far reaching.

 We’re not aiming here to transform these people into highfalutin, over sophisticated speakers who sound affected.  Actually, over-stuffing your speech with over-the-top vocabulary can work to your detriment.  Psychology professor Daniel Oppenheimer, in his study “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long words Needlessly,” indicates that clear, simple, and straightforward language is often the best.  So why am I promoting the use of words beyond amazing and big? It’s not to make you sound smarter.  Although, I know that many non native English speakers complain that they feel like they sound dumb when speaking in English, while in their native language they feel like they sound intelligent.  My purpose here is to help people to be more descriptive.

 When I helped prepare with an actress for interviews and press conferences in English about a Hebrew film in which she plays the lead role, I wanted her to be able to explain what makes the film so great.  Incidentally, what we decided upon was not to express how great the film was, but that it was groundbreaking.  This was a much clearer indication of the fact that the film was the first of its kind in Israel.  It was distinctly different from the films preceding it.  I don’t consider groundbreaking all that fancy of a word.  I do consider it descriptive.  So why all this word play and analysis? I see it as all being connected to better communication.  Being clearer helps us to more effectively transmit our message and connect to people, even across vast distances.

 I’m not the only one who thinks about variety.  Paul Simon does, too, in his famous 1975 hit, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. There are so many ways to say things. Enjoy them.

 This is also true for native English speakers. How often do you use the word amazing? Is it indeed what you mean?  And then there’s great, which is also fine to use.  I have nothing against these words. However, exploring the possibilities of how to best to express yourself gives you so many more options.  When we describe something, there’s always that gray area. It’s up to us to provide the vivid description and bring some color into it.

Tell ‘Em What You Want

I can’t guarantee that you’ll get what you want, but I do know how to increase your chances. Sometimes, it’s as simple as stating your intention.

This should be done with an amount of clarity and respect, but we need to let people know what we want.

I remember visiting  the bank with my mother, when she asked the bank teller for several paper quarter rolls.  She had several hundreds of quarters to roll in order to deposit them at the bank. These were quarters accumulated from many months of pay per use laundry machines. The teller asked my mother how many rolls she needed, and she said, “alot.” The teller cordially brought her about 10 rolls. I remember telling my mother at that point that she needed to be clear in telling people what she wants- 100 rolls. ‘Alot’ is a relative term. I never let my mother forget this incident, because I believe it provides a lesson for all areas of life. By communicating what we want, we are at least letting people know, and there’s a chance that once they know, they can help us achieve that goal.

With those in management positions, this can be a crucial element. There are actually those who manage teams but are unclear about indicating goals or measures of success. They expect work to be done by their teams, but there’s no clear understanding of what is supposed to be accomplished.

This seems like a pretty obvious point, establishing your goals, but it can often be overlooked in the anxiety ridden preparation for a presentation or speech, or even for a brief phone call.  Before preparing any remarks, always make sure to determine what your messages are, what your goals are for this communication, and then you can consider how to achieve them, depending on the audience. Figuring out what you want can often be a challenge, but it’s necessary in order to move forward with anything and everything you do.

The basic question to ask yourself is “what do I want?”   The rest is figuring out how to get it.

Say My Name

Do you want to earn points and make a good impression with someone?

You might want to connect with the person to whom you are speaking, perhaps an interviewer. Here’s a simple measure that goes a long way- say that person’s name.

I’m a pushover for people who say my name during a conversation. That small gesture makes a conversation, an interview, or really any communicative interaction that much more personal.  And whether it’s a presentation, a performance, a joke, or any other expression, our goal is most often to connect with our audience.

So what’s in a name? Well, our name is generally how we identify ourselves, and when you refer to someone by name during an exchange, you’re communicating to them that you are in this conversation, and you know to whom you’re speaking. You’re paying attention and trying to connect on some level. You want to share something specifically with them. And most of all, you’re validating their existence.

Some people often feel invisible for  a variety of reasons. When you use their name in conversation, you’re showing them that you’re not just thinking of yourself and what you want to say, but you’re listening to them, you’re communicating with them, and you’re engaging them in conversation.

Pay attention to your next conversation. See how it makes you feel when someone  refers to you by name, and try it out yourself when you speak with people.

The Power of Positive Speaking

I once bought a pair of eyeglasses at a branch of a national optical chain. After I took the glasses home, I returned to the store a few days later, in order to have the glasses adjusted.

I told the salesperson that the glasses felt too small, and she replied, “They’re not too small; your face is too big.”

After recovering from her comment, I decided that a) I don’t want to purchase anything from that store in the future, and b) there’s a way to say things, and this was not the way, especially if you value the importance of customer service and customer retention.

My friend is a kindergarten teacher. She told me how at lunch, one little girl took out a bag of grapes to eat, and her schoolmates told her that she wasn’t allowed to bring grapes to school. When my friend heard what was happening, she confirmed that indeed, “Grapes are an after school snack,” to which the little girl replied, “Oh, right, because grapes are made with nuts.” Cute story about how in today’s allergy-sensitive world, the kindergartener knew that nuts in school is a no-no.  Incidentally, the grape issue is that grapes are a choking hazard.

What struck me, though, was how the teacher referred to the grapes being an “after school snack,” rather than saying something along the lines of, “You aren’t allowed to bring grapes to school.”

There’s a way to say things, which has the ability to sound positive, to motivate others, and to empower.  

Many people don’t realize the potential power that words carry.  I have written about this before, and I believe it bears repeating.

Whether you are an executive, a manager or team leader, a sales professional, a teacher, or any other type of professional, you have the power to influence people at all levels.  Thinking about the way you deliver your message and the words you choose to use will give you the opportunity to shape that influence.  I’m not advocating always being super-positive. There are times that call for harsh words.  The key is to be mindful of your words.  We have very little control of our lives.  However, what we can do is be aware of what we say.  Words can crush confidence, kill a buzz, or build confidence and inspire.

We all can refer to great speakers.  We have heard quotes from motivational speeches given by myriad personalities as different as Winston Churchill, leader of the United Kingdom during the Second World War, and Vince Lombardi, renowned American football coach of the 1960’s.

If, as they say, knowledge is power, then awareness of our words is empowerment.

I Have to Present This? In Front of People?

I remember an early client of mine. She was a graduate student who had written a paper on the value of beauty. The paper included complex philosophical ideas and extensively covered the realm of beauty as an ideal. She did excellently on the paper. In fact, she was asked to present it to a panel of professors. She turned to me for help, because writing a ten page paper and having to present it to an audience over the course of 10-15 minutes are two different things. So how is it done? There are various formats, including an informal discussion, or a frontal presentation. She delivered a frontal presentation, but together we found ways to make it interactive, so that the audience would remain engaged.

Here are some of the basic building blocks to building a presentation. They can be applied to various kinds of presentations.

First, answer the following questions before beginning to prepare your presentation.

1. What is the goal of my presentation? What do I want the audience to walk away remembering?

2. Who is the audience? Is there something they want or need to hear? Is the presentation for industry engineers, scholars, or for potential lay consumers? Do I anticipate a hostile audience? Will I need to address some challenging questions?

With this information in mind, begin with listing the few main messages of the presentation. This is the short-term purpose of your presentation- you want the audience to receive these messages. A long term purpose may be to create a business partnership, to obtain new clients, to get hired, etc.

Now add to those messages, some tools from the presentation toolbox, which will help emphasize, clarify, and sharpen the messages. You can do this by including example stories, fact and figures, props, and visual aids. This is all the supplemental information which will strengthen the message, helping transmit the message in various ways, so your audience will get it. Some people react better to visual aids, while others will relate more to a story, which makes the information more personal and applicable to their lives.

Once you have prepared the main messages and their supporting information, you have the body of the presentation. If you anticipate questions and are anxious about being able to answer them on the spot, prepare. List for yourself all the questions you can anticipate, both the ones you don’t mind being asked, and also the ones you hope are not asked. Once you can address those tough questions, you should feel ready, having done your best to thoroughly prepare. And if you cannot answer some questions, that doesn’t signify defeat. In many circumstances saying you cannot answer is a legitimate response. Be sure, however, to offer a reason for not being able to answer, as well as something you can offer. You can say something like, “I can’t give you the final numbers of sales for this year, because we are still in the process of calculating the figures. But what I can tell you is that we have seen an increase in sales over the last year. ”

Now you need to add the introduction and the conclusion. Without these, you don’t have the frame for the image or message you are trying to create.

The introduction should include something that will get the audience’s attention. I don’t mean a loud bang. I mean some piece of information which will get them interested. It can establish you as an expert on your topic, thus giving them a rationale for why it’s worth listening to you. It can also introduce the topic and its importance in a way which relates to them. It should answer the question of why they should listen to you. It can also surprise them with something unknown, leaving them wanting to know more. And when you have that attention, tell them what the presentation will cover. Let them know what to expect.

The conclusion is essential, in that this will probably be what the audience takes away at the end of the presentation. You want to summarize those main messages again for them to take home. This isn’t the place to add new supporting information. You’ve done that already. This is the time to drill it into them. You can also bring it all full circle by closing with a reference to something you mentioned at the beginning of the presentation.

Statistics show that people will mostly remember the first and last things you say in a presentation. That doesn’t mean that the middle or body is insignificant. It’s actually your base for proving your points. But remember to use the beginning to command attention and establish yourself as worth being heard, and use the end to remind them of the important things to remember.

There is a lot more to building a stellar presentation, as well as a lot more tools in the toolbox, such as humor, vocal variation, hand and facial gestures, etc. This is a basic sketch of a structured presentation and should prove helpful in working to deliver your message.

Picture this: Bollywood sells

I had just settled in for an hourlong bus ride.  I forgot my earphones, so I couldn’t use the time to listen to music or a podcast on my iphone. I settled back in the seat, and I noticed that the song on the radio had an Indian sound to it.  It made me think of a Bollywood movie.  A big song and dance extravangaza out of one of those movies from India, where more films are produced each year than in any other country.  Can you picture this scene?  Lots of people, dancing, smiling, singing. They are enrobed in bright oranges, pinks, greens and purples, and the musical number comes to a crescendo with a big choreographed finale.  I don’t know what makes these movies sell. If I had to guess, it might have something to do with the authenticity, the exotic flair, the bright colors and unique sounds. (unique perhaps to those of us not from India) You might not be a fan of it, but it draws you in, and you can’t look away.

Now if we peel ourselves away from this Bollywood scene, and we think about public speaking, we can draw some similarities. Yes, I’m being serious here. We want to connect to our audience. We want to draw them in and command their attention. We can list the facts, share our messages, give a big smile, and we’re done.  But let’s really bring them into it.  Try describing a situation, a story which illustrates a point.  And when you tell that story, perhaps something specific which you experienced first hand, take the audience back to that place and time with you.

Did you not prepare photos for your presentation? That’s ok.  Use words that paint a picture. Provide the audience with a virtual experience.  Describe the colors, the smells, the sounds, the sights in that story, using whatever is applicable and appropriate.  If you’re trying to persuade your audience of something, you want them to be in that place where you are, so that you can convince them to agree with you or mobilize to take action as a result of your speech.

No, don’t go and describe a Bollywood song and dance scene, when you’re tying to persuade a board of directors to approve the annual budget.  But share a memory of the past or a vision for the future.  Be detailed in your description.  Let ’em really taste  it.  And when you’ve hit that crescendo of what was or what could be, then bring home your point and make the sell.