Is It Really the Delivery?

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I often get calls from corporate clients – often the people organizing a conference or a person who works closely with a top executive – looking for coaching. They complain of conference presenters – or other presenters who deliver presentations internally in front of the execs – who are boring, un-engaging, and who lose the audience with their monotonous delivery. I’ll often hear something like this:

“She’s smart as a whip, knows her stuff inside and out, but those presentations are really dull! You can tell people are just tuning out when she talks.”

They want me to work with their presenters on their delivery skills. However, I usually suspect the presenters could use help with their content as well, though the caller will often tell me, “they give all the right information, it’s just how they deliver it. They need more (choose one or more) energy, personality, humor, inflection, etc. 

At that point I will tell them that in my experience, a dull presentation usually starts with the content. Sure, all the right points might be hit with all the right data, but it needs to be put together so that it touches the listener in a human way. 

For example, an effective and compelling presentation needs to have a cohesive narrative. It must be easily understood, flow, have smooth and logical transitions and use conversational language, free of jargon if the audience is not fluent in it. The presenter needs to use stories, examples, metaphors, analogies and other methods to illustrate points and create images in the listeners’ minds. Most importantly it should strike a responsive chord in the listener with knowledge they already possess, and it needs to appeal to their needs and interests…in a way they can take in. It needs to touch them as people as it imparts the information the speaker wants to communicate.

Finally, the presenter needs to feel passionate about what they present. I don’t suggest going overboard with emotion: huge physical gestures, booming voice and tears. I mean that the presenter must truly believe in what they are saying and show their enthusiasm for it. If that doesn’t come readily, they’ll need to reframe the presentation so that they find some important meaning in it, some aspect of it that motivates them. That could mean getting in touch with their enthusiasm for impressing their audience with their communication skills, their enjoyment in telling a success story, or knowing they are giving the audience what they need to know when they are unaware they need to know it!

Once the presentation is constructed in this way, the delivery often takes care of itself. If not, the presenter now has a solid foundation – which connects with the listener via its content — for learning how to connect with the audience as they deliver it. It is so much easier for a speaker to bring energy and vocal variety to something they feel enthusiastic about. Their confidence improves when they know they have a great product to deliver, and the monotone, often a product of nervousness, starts to diminish naturally. Bottom line, an engaging delivery starts with an engaging presentation. 

Until the next time…

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