Have you ever felt asleep in a talk because the speaker was boring or just kept rambling on and on? It’s important to be interesting when presenting in front of people because talks can get tiresome. Learn how to go from boring to bravo with your host Elizabeth Bachman. You already learned how to make a script, now learn how to spice it up. Use stories and metaphors to catch people’s attention. Talk about the benefits that you’re offering. Learn all this and more in today’s episode. This is an updated version of an episode from March of 2020. The link to the previous version is below.
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Transform Your Speech From Boring To Bravo!
Spicing Up Your Presentations
This is number 3 of a series of 4 shows in the Visible and Valued training series, where I’m talking about how to spice up your presentations. In the last two episodes, I’ve spoken about how to use strategy to improving your career by becoming more visible and more valued. The best way to do that is through presentation skills. Once you have your presentation skills, then you need to write the script. That’s what the last episode was about. We’re talking about once you have the script, how do you make it interesting? How do you spice up your presentation so that your audience gets excited and they’re ready to do what you want them to do?
Have you ever seen a boring speaker or who’s so nervous that they talk very fast and they never thought to pause between them? They gobble and you have no idea what they’re talking about. Tell me, have you ever been that speaker? I think we all have at one time or another. This is the opportunity of this show to talk about how you can avoid those traps that speakers all over the world fall into and truly have an interesting presentation.
Suppose you were a cook in an Italian restaurant. You could boil up some spaghetti, open a can of tomatoes, dump it on top and serve it. That would be edible but boring. What you want to do is spice up your presentation by adding the onions, garlic, herbs, maybe the shrimp, and some vegetables. That’s what makes your presentation interesting so that you will have people coming to you wanting to have this wonderful dish that you’ve prepared.The act of taking notes is a way that can help you remember things better. It helps you truly own your material. Click To Tweet
This is all about how to add the spices at the right time at the right place so that you become more interesting. My intention is to show you how not to drown your audience in data, stay on track, keep your audience engaged even if you’re an introvert. I encourage you to take notes. The act of taking notes of writing things down is a way that you could remember things better so that will help you truly own this material.
Last Episode Review
To review what we talked about in the last episode. The formula I usually start with for a script is the classic five-point formula from Roman rhetoric, introduction, talking points A, B, and C, and the conclusion with the call to action. Those are the basics. Of course, you want to reverse engineer your speech. You want to start at the end with what is your call to action, what do you want them to do once they’ve heard you and all excited about what you have to say, and then work backward from there so that the whole speech is aimed at the end.
When I do this as I work with my clients, I tend to have speaker keys that increase audience engagement. There are seventeen of them. You don’t have to do all of them at once. What I’m going to talk about is 3 or 4 of the main ones. If you’re interested in getting the whole list of seventeen, you can contact me afterward. I’ll tell you how at the end of the program.
Why Is It Important To Make An Effort?
Why does it matter? Why do we care? Why is it important to be seen and make an effort? The reason is you’ve got to be interesting. If you’re not interesting, your audience is going to tune out. They’re going to do something else, especially nowadays when so much of what we do is virtual. It’s easy for someone to shrink your face and your broadcast into a corner of the screen, go off and do something more fun.
Less How, More Why
You’ve got to get people engaged in order to have them do what you want them to do and get the result that you want. Does this look familiar? Have you ever been the presenter watching your audience fall asleep? It’s happened to everybody, but it doesn’t have to happen to you. The first thing is how do you manage to avoid drowning people in data?
The problem that so many people fall into is they do too much how and not enough why. Too much of talking about how to do what we do and not enough why it matters and why we should care? What are the benefits? What’s in it for me? Tell them about what the benefits are. Even if you have to give us a presentation where you’re talking about what they need to do, tell them why it matters.
This happened to my client, Gregory. Gregory is an employment lawyer and he’s good at the details. He doesn’t work with clients as much as working with charts and graphs. He loves doing all of that stuff and following all the regulations, but because he was so good at understanding all the regulations, his boss said, “Gregory, we need you to be the one to tell our clients about these new federal regulations that have come in and what they need to do.”
He called me up. He said, “I don’t want to have to do that. I don’t like to be out there talking to people. I know they’re going to hate it. These regulations are so boring. They’re important but boring. How am I going to be able to do this?” We work together by focusing on benefits. Every time he spoke about regulation, he made sure that he spoke to the client about why they would care, why does it matter or why not doing it would get them in trouble, anything that would get their attention.
He worked on it and wound up being so good at it that his boss said, “You’re going to be doing this all the time, and I think you want to turn this into a recruiting speech where you can talk to prospective clients and get them to sign on with us.” He called me up at that point and he said, “Thank you for pushing me into doing the presentation to our clients. I was scared at first, but you’re right. The more I did it, the easier it was, but now I have to recruit people. How do I do this?”
Staying On Track!
It turned out not to be terribly hard because we had worked so much on his regular speech and the benefits that people would get. He was able to convert his speech into a recruiting speech. He started getting clients for the company and is up for promotion. The second thing that people get into trouble with is not staying on track. How do you avoid the tangents? How do you not go into the weeds of what you’re talking about?In this virtual age, you need to be interesting. If you're not, your audience is going to tune out. Click To Tweet
This is something that happens to many people. It’s really easy to do. We’re used to telling stories. I don’t know if you’ve ever found yourself talking about something that you’re supposed to be giving a presentation and you decide to expand on this point and on another point, then suddenly, before you know it, you’re off track.
Have you ever been in a situation where you’re listening to somebody, they go off on a tangent, and that’s not what you came there to learn? That’s annoying. It wastes everybody’s time. How can you keep yourself from doing that? Once again, reverse engineer your speech. Make sure you know what you’re going to do and how long it’s going to take you to tell that story and do these various speeches.
You always want to make sure that you have time to get to your call to action. What is the thing you want them to do at the end of your speech? Never compress that. I never compress the talking point. That is the one that’s the most exciting talking point that’s going to lead to your call to action. Whether it’s talking within your company and presenting to upper management or to the board saying, “Here’s what we’re doing. Here’s what we want to do. Please approve it.”
You might be inspiring your team or maybe you’re out there making a sales presentation. All of this involves staying on track and knowing where you are going. Here’s one of my favorite tips. If you think about the difference between a stopwatch and a countdown timer, the thing about a stopwatch is you start it and it goes until you stop it.
That’s what happens to so many speakers who will get up and start talking, not paying attention to the time and they’ll go until they’re done or run out of time. They didn’t get a chance to ask for the business or come to their conclusion. If you think of your speech as a countdown timer, say you know you have twenty minutes to present this material. Work out each of your talking points and figure out how long it’s going to take them.
Most importantly, since you never want to compress the end, practice the pieces in reverse. Time yourself and then know where you have to start your final piece or call to action. You’re going to need to know how to do that so that you finish on time. If they want to talk to you later or want to talk to you more, that’s fine, but make sure that you’ve made your point on time.
I taught this to a workshop that I’m doing for a Biopharma company. Nancy sent me a message and said, “Thank you so much for the kitchen timer idea. I’ve been using that technique since your workshop series and I’m getting much better results. My team is using the techniques too, even the CFO has noticed the difference and he never notices anything.”
Last Minute Doubts
What happens if you are having last-minute doubts? Again, this is something that happens to everybody. At the last minute, we begin to think, “Am I good enough? Maybe I don’t have enough in this.” This is what happened to my client, Sally. Sally has a business in manufacturing where she manufactures replacement parts for very large machines.
She called me because she was going to do a six-minute speech at a conference. She’s very fun and interesting on stage. She loves what she does, so she’s very compelling to watch what. She has a hard time staying on time. We used the countdown timer for her and worked out a speech that was only six minutes long that made the points that she wanted to make. She rehearsed them. However, she fell into the doubt trap.
I called her up the night before she was going to give the presentation and she said, “I suddenly realized I need to add more information.” What had happened was she began to think, “They’re not going to take me seriously. I’m a lone woman in a male-dominated business manufacturing. People are going to think I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m going to have to tell them some of the stories of the things that we do well.” She wound up adding about twenty minutes of material to what was only going to be a six-minute speech.Even if you're talking to very serious groups of people, still tell stories. Everyone grew up learning about the world through stories. Click To Tweet
Fortunately, I caught her in time. I urged her to trust her material. If you’ve worked it out or you’ve gotten help from a speaking coach and you know you’ve got a good speech, those doubts are the voices in your head trying to sabotage you or trying to keep you safe, but you’re a grownup. You don’t have to listen to them. Trust your material and do it as planned. Indeed, this is what happened with Sally.
She called me up afterward and she said, “It was awesome. I was able to finish within six minutes. I did the whole thing. Even better, three different companies and representatives came up to me afterward and said, ‘That was compelling. We didn’t know you did that. Let’s set up a conversation to see how you can help us.’” It worked for Sally.
The third thing that’s so important for engaging your audience is stories and metaphors. I like to think of stories as a hook. How do you hook people’s attention? This is especially important for the beginnings and endings of a presentation, especially if you’re doing a public speech. Internal presentations maybe not be so much, but for a public speech, you want to have something compelling to get their attention, but it has a hook such as telling a story using a metaphor, sometimes you could use a quote and ask a question.
Stories and metaphors work very well at the beginning of a speech. They also work very well in the middle of a speech when you’re giving the technical information, but then giving them a metaphor to make it be a hook in and to stay in the memory. The thing is that people remember stories more than they remember facts.
Another technique that I like to use is to have a story, quotation, or final thought that will make people remember you. People remember the beginning and the end. You can play around a bit in the middle. You want to have a very strong beginning and end. A metaphor, a story, or something that will tell people why it’s worth doing what you want them to do.
One of the pushbacks I get from my clients all the time is, “Yes, but I’m speaking to scientists, engineers, and experts. They already know that.” Even if you’re speaking to your team, they already know that. Stories and metaphors will still help because I don’t care who they are. If they grew up as human being, they grew up learning about the world through stories. The stories that we hear in our childhood are the ones that have us primed to learn stories and learn through stories.
If you need to give technical information, then give the technical information and use a metaphor to say, “I like to think of it as this,” or you can tell your clients how to do that. I work a lot with medical professionals, and that’s when I can say, “You can explain this to your patients using this metaphor.” That has been very helpful.
This was part of what we did with Sally with her six-minute speech. One of the things that Sally did very well was she created a new way to solve a problem for an oil refinery. In the process of refining oil, there is a strainer basket that the raw petroleum goes through that strains out all the solids so that the liquid petroleum can go ahead and continue to be processed.
Sally’s team had created a much better way of doing that. That was the story that she chose to tell at the conference. Since it’s the thing that you only know about it if you happen to work in that part of an oil refinery, and she knew that most of her audience wouldn’t understand, I said, “Why don’t you use a metaphor? Say that it’s like the hair trapped in the shower. This strainer basket takes out all the icky stuff so that the liquid can follow through.”
Sally said, “I can’t talk about some hair trap in a shower,” but I persuaded her to try it. One of the company reps who wanted to come in and discuss hiring her came up to her afterward and said, “I love that part about the shower drain and the hair trap. I know exactly what you’re talking about and I’m going to think of it that way forever.” That metaphor worked for Sally.
Here’s a good way to think about all of this. It’s a process, not a patch. Instead of drowning people in data, think about what they will resonate with and what the benefits are. In terms of tangents, what will they resonate with trying to avoid going into the weeds? Avoid the tangents and use stories and metaphors to illustrate what you have to say.
Be interesting. This has been the Speakers Who Get Results. If you’re curious about how your presentation skills are going, you can take our free quiz at SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. In about four minutes, you can see where you’re strong and where perhaps a little bit of support to get you the results you need and the recognition that you deserve. I promised I would tell you about how to get the seventeen speaker keys to increase audience engagement.Think of you speech as a countdown timer, not as a stopwatch. Click To Tweet
If you are interested in this, this is one of the benefits of the Visible and Value training month, send me an email at Elizabeth@ElizabethBachman.com and put the word seventeen keys in the subject line. I’ll be able to send you to the right place. You still have to figure out how you’re going to use it, but you will get the full list which is something that I have up on my wall to remind me every time I want. Again, if you have something important to say, you can use these techniques to be interesting so that your presentations will be spiced up and you become someone to follow, hire or promote. I’ll see you at the next one.