Here are some simple techniques you can use to keep your audience engaged (and awake!) during your next presentation:
Tell a story: As the saying goes, “facts fade, data gets dumped, stories stick!” Our brains are naturally hard-wired for narrative and we teach and learn best via storytelling. That’s not to say that stats and metrics aren’t important but weaving a story or example into them will often be what ultimately persuades the listeners. Magic Phrase = “For example…”
Incorporate names: What’s everyone’s favorite word? Their name! This simple trick can keep everyone on their toes (especially on con calls) and add a bit of flattery, too. “So you can see, John, how the process will be significantly shorter.” “Barbara was sharing with me earlier…”
Ask for a show of hands: Survey questions are highly interactive for audiences, plus they can provide great insights helping you to quickly customize, review, or skip ahead. “How many of you have a social media strategy already in place?” “Have any of you ever been up in a hot air balloon?”
Ask a rhetorical question: These questions aren’t asking for a response, but they’re engaging all the same as audiences try to answer it in their heads. “Have you ever wondered…” “Have you ever found yourself…’
Add a prop: A great technique, especially for those kinesthetic learners in your audience. “I’m going to pass the device around, so you can all feel how lightweight it is.” “As you’ll see in the brochure, the before-and-after shots are quite amazing.”
Ask for their input: “Would anyone care to share how…?” “What do you see as the downside of Option 1?” Be careful here. You run the risk of someone stealing the floor from you, so maintain control of the crowd and the clock.
Demonstrate something: Or better yet, have the audience demo it as you instruct. “When you click on this link, the drop-down box will appear.” “This yoga position is especially good for your back.”
Now you have seven tricks for keeping your audiences heads-up, off of their phones, and engaged in you and your message. And don’t stop with just one of them. Incorporate as many as you can in your presentations and get ready for some positive feedback!
Skilled presenters understand the importance of Q & A. If they handle it well, they’ll be able to use this time to convey their confidence and expertise, to reinforce some of the ideas they shared, even add in material they may have left out or glossed over. If a speaker stays positive and in control of their content and delivery, they’ll be able to continue to build credibility with those who agree with them, as well as win over the nonbelievers or those on the fence.
Q & A can also be a vulnerable time for speakers, as they could get tripped up, challenged, or attacked. Time spent brainstorming questions that could be asked, then preparing and practicing effective responses can help speaking pros minimize those fears. They’ve also mastered the four types of Q & A.
At the End of the Presentation
This is the typical point questions are entertained, certainly in more formal settings with larger audiences. The problem with ending with Q & A is that the longer it goes, the fewer and farther between the questions become. The back rows have already started to slip out the door and you end with a smattering of applause from the remnant that remains. And remember—there’s always a chance the questions may turn negative. What’s the last thing you want your audience to hear—your final takeaway? Or that audience member’s hostile take-down of you and your ideas? Pros are able to handle questions positively and concisely, sideline the off-topic questions, and navigate the challenging ones with tact and grace.
Before the Conclusion
This is my personal favorite. Why? If you insert your Q & A before the conclusion, a couple of nice things happen. The audience tends to regulate themselves because they know they still haven’t heard your conclusion. And you get to have the last word. You finish to thundering applause and everyone knows it’s done-done. So try, “Before I wrap-up, I have time for a few questions.” Take 3-4 of them, then move right into your final remarks and action step. Everyone will walk out of the room with your thrilling conclusion ringing in their ears.
Most internal work presentations are met with frequent interruptions from the audience, as they usually see this, not as a true presentation, but as more of a discussion. The executives in the room certainly do. So the trick here is to manage the incoming questions, remember where you were when they stopped you, then find a way to bridge back to your prepared content. Try not to let your answers last longer than the presentation itself. Be as concise as you can, then ask if that answered their question. Better to do that than to assume everyone suddenly wants an intense deep-dive into everything you know on the topic.
It’s happened to you, hasn’t it? You ask the crowd if they have questions and they all stare back at you. You literally hear crickets. What should you do? First, don’t panic and, second, give them time! What seems like deafening silence to you isn’t to them. Their brains are processing everything they heard and they’re formulating their questions if you would just give them some time. So wait, then gently ask again for their questions and, if you still don’t hear any, ask and answer the first one yourself. “You might be wondering…,” or “I’m often asked…,” or “Many people ask me…” You could also ask a question of the audience – “Of the 3 plans I’ve talked about today, which would be most cost-effective for you?”
Are you a master of all these Q & A situations? Prepare for all four types and you’ll be able to call yourself a Pro!
© Jill Bremer 2018
Incivility is all around us. Shrill debates, finger-pointing, and bullying have filled our workplaces, social media streams, schools, and families.
What we all need is a big dose of RESTRAINT. P.M. Forni, author of Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct has written beautifully about this very idea:
“I would say insufficient training in restraint is identified as a cause of rising incivility. As a society, we have been very good in instilling self-respect in our children but not as good in instilling self-restraint. When we teach self-esteem but forget to train our children in self-restraint, we create children who are self-centered, who believe the world revolves around them, who are so self-invested that they have little moral energy left for their fellow human beings. They are trapped in a cage of narcissism that we have built for them. Restraint is an essential component of civility. We are civil when we are aware of others and we weave restraint, respect and consideration into the very fabric of this awareness.”
How can we show restraint in the workplace? Here are 6 ideas to consider:
- Use a filter when speaking. Every thought in your head doesn’t need to be shared. Words leave a “wake”, much like a boat gliding across a lake. What is the “wake” you want to leave when you leave the room? Before you speak, try asking yourself: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?
- Develop the ability to adapt your communication style. Everyone needs a toolbox of styles so they can flex in the moment and communicate in ways that will be understood on the receiving end. Your communication style shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all, because it doesn’t.
- Ask for input before responding. As Simon Sinek teaches: Be the last to speak. Screen out distractions. Ask clarifying and expanding questions to verify your understanding and draw out further information. The discussion will be better because of it.
- Respect boundaries. Don’t assume you’re on a first-name-basis with everyone you meet. Don’t interrupt. Don’t help yourself to other people’s stuff, food, ideas. Without boundaries, we have chaos.
- Recognize that people have feelings. Demonstrating empathy and compassion is not a show of weakness; it’s a sign of strong leadership. Put yourself in others’ shoes and think about what could be going on their lives outside of work. As the saying goes, “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
- Handle conflict and critiques in private. These events are not for public consumption, nor should they be handled via email. Step out of the hallway and get to a place with a door you can close. If someone is upset, let them vent before jumping in. Restrain yourself. Instead, be passive and respectful.
It’s not easy to show restraint. We’re human beings, after all. And we love to be heard and tell others what they need to do. Developing the ability to hold back, listen, and carefully choose our words can build better relationships, workplaces, and communities. Restraint – a value we need more of.
© 2018 Jill Bremer
We all want our workplaces to be havens from conflict, a refuge from the strife of the outside world where we can work together in harmony toward shared goals and objectives. In an ideal world, workplaces could be the model for the rest of society. But are they?
The reality is that workplaces are a melting pot, probably more diverse than the social groups we interact with and the neighborhoods we return to at days end.
Herein lies the problem:
• Can we all get along at work when the world outside is swirling with controversy?
• Can we hold those hot-button issues at bay and get our work done with people who may think very differently from ourselves?
• Can we find a way to discuss issues in a civil, empathetic and safe way as a way to open minds and build bridges?
What does “being civil” mean? The author of Rude Awakenings, which I had the pleasure of being a contributing author to, defined it this way: “Being mindful of the dignity of the human being in your sphere, taking care not to demean that individual in any way.”
Civility is linked to the Latin word civitas, which meant “city” and “community” and gave us the word “civilization.” The word itself suggests a larger social concern. When we’re civil, we’re members in good standing of a community, we’re good neighbors and good citizens. We have an active interest in the well-being of our communities and a concern for the planet we inhabit. Choosing civility means choosing to do the right thing for others, for the “city”.
The breakdown in civility begins when people start to believe they’re the center of the universe, rather than a cog in a big wheel. The seeds are planted when people start showing up late, blame others, fail to say “thank you”, or demonstrate a lack of sensitivity. Attitudes of “I don’t care what you think” or “That’s just how I am – deal with it” can have a ripple effect on others and turn workplaces into an “every man for himself” mindset instead of “we’re all in this together.” Civility teaches that every word you say and every action you take impacts others and care should be taken to make our “city” a pleasant and productive place to be.
So what can we do to make our workplaces more civil and the world a better place? Take responsibility!
There are three forms of responsibility to consider:
When you’re professionally responsibility, you take responsibility for the work you produce. You arrive on time, meet deadlines, and pull your weight on projects. You listen well and follow through. You send clear and unemotional emails, leave intelligible voice mails, and stay “present” on phone calls. It also means you do what you can to advance the company brand and make your organization successful. You do more than what it simply required.
Personal Responsibility means you take responsibility for yourself and your actions. You don’t blame or bash others and you admit your mistakes. You don’t yell, make derogatory comments, or spread gossip. You clean up after yourself in break rooms and bathrooms. You do the right thing even when no one is watching, like refilling paper trays, starting a new pot of coffee, or throwing away food leftovers. Those who display personal responsibility demonstrate a high level of emotional intelligence and personal integrity.
Social Responsibility is the type of responsibility where you help others. Do you mentor, support, inspire, coach, encourage, and show compassion? If you’re a supervisor, supervise. If you’re a manager, manage. Are you a leader? Lead! Jump in and do what you can to help those around you grow and succeed.
Take responsibility – and our workplaces and world will be better because of it.
Incivility a problem in your workplace? Our full-day Civility in the Workplace workshop can help. Contact www.theedgeexecutivecoaching.com.
© Jill Bremer 2018
If English is not your first language, communicating at work can often present challenges. Issues around pronunciation, grammar, jargon, and writing skills may be holding you back from making the impact you’d like to have in your company.
Learning a new language takes time. Research shows it can take 5-8 years for a person to learn a second language on par with native speakers. In the meantime, employers may be placing pressure on or have unreal expectations of those who deliver less-than-perfect written reports or misspeak during a meeting. Perhaps your own fear of mispronunciation or misunderstanding keeps you from feeling comfortable enough to jump in and share your ideas.
If your workplace doesn’t offer ESL classes, one-on-one tutoring may be the answer for you, a safe place where you can improve your communication skills out of the spotlight and away from those you fear making mistakes in front of. Tutors can customize sessions for your particular challenges and goals and fluency and accuracy can improve quickly.
But simply improving pronunciation and grammar may not develop all the competencies you truly need. Benefits can be gained by adding Executive Presence coaching into the program:
- Conversation Skills – Small talk is an important communication skill and the first step in developing rapport, relationships, and business.
- Business Etiquette – How well do you navigate the intricacies of meetings and greetings, showing deference, and techno-communications?
- Social Skills – People gauge a range of abilities simply by observing one’s networking skills and dining etiquette.
- American Jargon – Every country has its jargon and idioms and American business has enough to fill a dictionary. Are you confident about what they mean and when/how to use them?
- Nonverbal Communication – Body language communicates most of our content. Build your ability to read others accurately and adapt accordingly.
- Presentation Skills – Doors open to those who can deliver a solid presentation. Coaching can help you develop these skills and increase your confidence.
- Professional Image – Gain an understanding of your company’s written – and unwritten – dress code and present a consistent and cohesive personal brand.
ESL tutoring combined with Executive Presence coaching may be just the ticket you need to communicate clearly and effectively and build your visibility and impact. Don’t let your career stagnate when some individualized attention could help!