We’re all familiar with the term Mind over Matter.
I find this phrase is particularly fitting for presentations. When you’re in front of the room, it’s important to not mind what doesn't matter.
There’s a strange phenomenon with presentations. The audience can tell when the presenter is thinking about something other than what they’re talking about.
Remember Marco Rubio’s sip of water? Everyone focused on it because it revealed that Mr. Rubio wasn't focused.
He needed water to articulate better, but by reaching off screen to quench his thirst, he clearly chose comfort over his content. The resulting media scrutiny hopefully taught him to finish his thought, and then in silence, take a sip of water and continue.
You see, great communicators excel because they realize that personal comfort is secondary to presenting. If you want the audience to listen, remember, and be motivated to action, you have to be totally present.
If you’re in charge of everyone’s time, your comfort shouldn't be a concern.
What should be of concern is:
- Engaging the audience.
- Keeping the meeting relevant, informative, and maximizing use of their time.
- Making your key points memorable.
- Delivering the content with verve.
We all love the myth that people can check their notes, clear their throat, and wing a flawless presentation with improvisations thrown in on the spot.
We also adhere to the horror story that as soon as you start speaking your mind will go blank, your throat will close up, and everyone will laugh as you fumble through your content.
But let’s get real…the best presenters are painfully aware of their audience, their volume, eye contact, hand gestures, current & approaching talking points, and all of those unfinished assignments waiting for them once they’re done.
They just don’t let the audience know, because they don’t want it to distract anyone.
Comfort is not a luxury when we present. The audience, content and delivery take total focus.
“Rhythmic patterns facilitate the co-activity of groups and aid their members in coordinating energies and resources in work…”
- Alan Lomax
What is the “rhythm of communication”?
Although every spoken message contains a vocal rhythm…
…and any written message possesses syllables that combine to make a flow of words…
…what is meant by “rhythm” is the pattern of sending and receiving messages that people become accustomed to in their work routines…
…and how these patterns apply differently for the various mediums of communications that business relies on today.
That is the longest sentence I will ever write.
Anyway, as I was typing, the business world can communicate in more ways than ever before. The question is…does this improve how we communicate?
Companies can hold conferences between people in different countries
Soldiers can speak face to face with their families at home, with only a thin screen of separation
Political debates include and respond to live feedback from citizens across the country
We are connected in a web that’s intricacy and quality has never been better and is constantly improving.
But there will never be a better option than a personal encounter for communicating your message.
Because with all of this new technology for hearing a message, there is also the same opportunity for avoiding a message.
Presenters must accept that their audience can send e-mails, check scores and status updates, talk to anyone via text message, and choose from millions of websites to surf while they speak in front of a room.
This is annoying, awkward, and angering…but at the same time…inspiring, because now we are forced to be interesting when we present.
The message that you’re communicating needs to be better than those distractions, and if it isn’t, then why are you wasting their time?
This leads into the observation that the majority of people talk longer than they need to.
I believe that most meetings and conferences could be conducted in half the time, if we could only distill our messages into the most important points.
So save your breath, avoid the long winded explanation, the world is rotating too quickly for these diatribes to be attended to.
Attention spans are shortening folks, and this coin has two clearly defined sides. We can pay attention to more things in a day, but for less amounts of time.
The greatest article circulates for a day and a half and then become old news in the business world. But so what? Now we can read a tablet full of amazing articles per week.
We learn more, but now we need to focus on internalizing messages faster.
And this comes from consolidating information into the most important points.
Oh… and keep it to 3 points please…more than that and it’s hard to remember.
It takes an enormous amount of energy to be merely, mildly, interesting. People struggle to speak louder, gesture more, and purposefully maintain eye contact because they believe by doing so they’re behaving awkwardly or acting fraudulently.
These skills do not change who you are, they help you to be your best. As I like to say, it’s not about buying a new car, it’s just shifting into a higher gear. And anyone that’s revved up during a presentation has a better chance of making their truth persuasive.
The scary thing about communication is that a bad person can persuade others with a compelling argument. Which is why it’s so important to teach the good people, who genuinely want to help others, the techniques they need to make their truth more persuasive.
Here’s something I’m always struck by. Why do people have difficulty discussing their product with true interest, the kind that captivates an audience? After all, it’s their brain child, their gift to the world. If they’re not excited than how can an audience get engaged?
One reason could be that they’re too close to the epicenter to understand how it’s viewed from the outside. And how it’s viewed by the audience is exactly what we should be focused on when presenting. Be mindful of the audience, take a deep breath and be aware of what’s important in the present moment, not just what’s important to you.
There is really nothing that happens on our village planet that doesn't start or finish with people in their 20's. They make the world go around.
There is a lot of stuff being written about the millennial sense of entitlement.
This holiday season I saw something beautiful about them. And it's really beautiful.
We have a fairly wild Christmas Party and share fun inexpensive gifts the next morning.
A lot of them showed up with contributions in the name of their colleague for efforts around the planet to make a difference. Soccer camp in Africa, a goat for a family that needed it…the list goes on. It wasn't just the contribution, it was also the thoughtfulness that they had for each other and for things that matter.
They talked about wanting to make a difference. They talked about making the world a better place.
Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, once shared a great story about leadership.
It demonstrates a simple realization: when you are in a leadership role, you can’t risk letting your guard down. There is no room for flippant remarks. Economist and former US Secretary of the Treasury, Larry Summers was walking through Goldman Sachs one day. He leaned over a trader and commented: “Huh, gold looks good.”
The next day Larry was having breakfast with the President of Goldman Sachs, perusing the New York Times.
Upon hitting the business section, he was confronted with a big headline about Goldman Sachs buying a lot of gold.
Larry put the paper down and asked, “Why did you buy so much gold?”. The President replied: “I heard you said it looked good.”
The point here is to know that your voice carries in a different way when you are a leader.
A leader must always be aware of their power and impact.
I am enamoured with and intrigued by the current generation of under 31-year-olds, the ‘Millennials’. Outnumbered only by the baby boomers, these kids are bright and fearless with a sense of entitlement that is going to make co-existence with older and more experienced co-workers very interesting.
I can say this because I have kids in their twenties. These are the kids that got a trophy for simply showing up on the soccer field versus the rest of us that babysat every child within a five-mile radius or operated a busy paper route by the tender age of thirteen.
Now this generation of ‘universal winners’ has grown up. I have found that this new generation is confident and ambitious with a goal to make the world a better place.