Forget the Statistics

Forget the stats.

Forget the followers.

Forget the connections.

Forget the likes.

Forget the dislikes.

All these metrics were happening long before social media and we found a way to ignore the daily churn and not get hung up on them.  This isn’t to say you should treat those that have connected and follow you as numbers that grow your network but instead think of them in the context of the real world.

When you are giving a presentation or talk, there are invariably going to be people that stand out and leave.

Perhaps they are in the wrong room, perhaps it’s not what they thought it would be, perhaps they don’t like you (it could, will happen).  Are you going to stop your presentation, follow them out the room and ask them why they are leaving and what you can do to get them back?

Doubtful, you’d be alienating the rest of your audience.

And when you tell people about the presentation you gave are you going to tell everyone the exact number of who was in the audience, what their backgrounds were and what industries they worked in?

Probably not, instead you are going to focus on how you delivered a killer presentation and how the crowd reacted and what you learned.

So yeah, forget the statistics and focus instead on the interaction, the feeling and the result.

The Trainer’s Paradox

I attended a full-day training session with a number of colleagues awhile ago.

The entire day was meant to be an interactive session – sharing stories, discussing ideas, answer questions on the material – in general more of a collaborative, engagement session vs powerpoint.

In the first half of the session, everyone was offering answers and suggestions to the discussion, but over the course of the day, the questions started to drop off, the hands were no longer going up as fast as they were before, people were being called upon by name instead of offering up their own ideas.

In short – the audience had checked out and was no longer participating.

It was no surprise – from the start of the session, the moderator, although great at asking questions, was not keen on listening to the answers or hearing different viewpoints but instead more intent on getting through the material, based on their own experiences and stories.

The collaborative discussion was there to get the ball rolling, but there was none to be had.

As presenters and trainers, there is a trap that lurks every time we get on stage where we feel we have to portray ourselves as the Master of our Domain, we have all the answers, we are up here presenting to you.

But we don’t.

We have an idea, a focus, a suggestion for how you can approach the problem.  The best presenters, acknowledge what has worked well for them, what hasn’t and modifies their pitch on the fly.  It isn’t easy, it doesn’t happen overnight and it’s not a feeling that ever goes away.

But the outcome of such an approach, is an engaged audience, from start to finish that leave the session not only feeling as though they learned something, but that they contributed to future sessions in some way, shape or form.

It’s an engagement you can’t buy, but one you can benefit from beyond the initial session.

From Presenting to Storytelling

I’ve been toying with this idea for almost 6 months now and finally completed a Slideshare presentation on why I think we (all of us) need to start looking at transitioning from delivering presentations in our work to delivering stories.

It sounds simple, but a quick glance at the last presentation you gave might yield a different story (no pun intended) where the intended output was more facts and presentation (i.e., firehose) and less connection and message (i.e., have a drink from the garden hose).

Here are my thoughts on this this topic – How to Become a Great Storyteller

What’s your Hook?

Video games do this very well – they show you what you can achieve if you keep playing, 3 or 4 levels down the line from where you currently are.

Forget the time investment to get there – they give you a taste of what extra goodies you can get.

They hook you before you are even there.

When listening to speakers or presenters that you really like – what is there hook?

You won’t see it immediately, you might need to watch a few times, but when you see it, you’ll see it was early on in their presentation.

It was subtle, almost hidden.

But it made you stay in your chair, made you sit up a little straighter and made you want to see what it was when you got there.

Hooks aren’t nefarious – the good ones, the really great ones – are built from trust, patience, understanding and passion for what you do.  When you convey those sentiments to people, you are moving beyond coercing towards engaging them in a positive way.

The next step becomes in developing a hook that aligns to who you are.

The Inverse Answer

Generally, when speaking or presenting, we ask the audience to ask questions. As a presenter, you WANT and even NEED them to ask questions.

It’s a bit of validation into what you have probably just invested an insurmountable amount of time and energy in, in making this presentation, to get some feedback and generate discussion.

If you don’t want your question/answer period to end at 1 question to do the following;

  1. Think about the question before speaking.
  2. Establish the common ground from which both you and the questioner can start from – what industry? do you use the same technologies? etc?
  3. Build on that common ground connection by recommending your answer to solving the problem.
  4. Apply it to a scenario this person might be fixing.
  5. Follow-up with the person asking the question whether you really answered the question (hey it happens) and follow-up with them later if you didn’t.

All or none of the above can work really, but there is only one thing you need to make sure you do not do when answering a question.

Deliver your presentation all over again, because that is not what they were asking you to do.