FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
√ You’ve been in the presentation coaching business for many years, but you’ve said that your career before that very much influences the way you train people. What did you do before you became a trainer?
I definitely have an eclectic background. In the business world I was the president of a six-station chain of radio stations at the age of 27. In the human potential arena, I developed SourceWork, a playful technique of dynamic expression. I have facilitated over four-hundred SW workshops and events in both the US and Europe. As a presentation coach, for the last 17 years, I’ve been training and hopefully inspiring speakers and would-be speakers one-on-one and in workshops.
I believe that the diversity in my background allows me to be the lead dog with a wide range of motley individuals in a whole smorgasbord of pursuits.
√ In your view, what are the biggest mistakes that presenters make?
1) They don’t hook us in on the problem before they go on to solve it.
2) They don’t master the art of storytelling — so that every major point has a story or anecdote to help the audience digest.
3) They don’t really engage the audience. You have to masterfully involve the audience in such a way that as many audience members as possible are clear regarding their personal version of the problem the presenter is here to help solve.
(More on this in the next two questions.)
√ I know you harp on the ability of speakers and presenters to authentically engage their audiences — you call this the 90% rule — what do you mean?
There have been much research around this point. (This from the Adult Learning Facts study.)
An audience retains:
20% of what it hears (which is likely double the actual number)
50% of what it sees and hears
90% of what it says and does
In other words, if you can get an audience involved with a process, exercise or just sharing their impressions of the current point, the chances are exponentially heightened that they go home with your message swimming through their DNA. To be effective, your presentation has to be about the audience. So, instead of trying to jam in an hour’s worth of material in 45 minutes, give us 30 minutes worth, but really make sure we get it.
√ Why do you say that way too many speeches, workshops and seminars are not really successful?
The mandate for movie audiences is entertainment. If a movie entertains you, you’re happy. (Which, with the movies today, doesn’t happen often enough.) But the mandate for live presentation is movement, growth, transformation...change. In truth, there are three qualities — all equally important — in a successful presentation: 1) entertainment 2) education and 3) engagement. Unfortunately — and you see this regularly with the old-timer speakers — too many talks may be entertaining, but not really hook the audience.
Bottom line: I emphasize all three with my clients.
√ You say: “if you can’t excite me in 30 seconds, you’re not interested in hearing me for 30 minutes.” Why?
We live in the world of Twitter, texting, and 15 second commercials. Our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. More importantly, it is critical that any kind of presenter, intimately, succinctly knows his or her core message. That’s the heart of a presenter’s approach. Everything — short talks, keynote speeches, interviews, promo material — emanates from that.
By the way, the default core message is: 1) I truly know my audience 2) I have a singular view of their problems/challenges/dilemmas 3) I have singular solutions. (Notice that I really emphasize the word “singular”!)
√ Why do you say that presence is at least as important as content?
Because you can have your content perfectly organized, in the way we like to be talked to, you can masterfully articulate the problem before you go on to solve it, you can be a hotshot storyteller, you can get us involved in some staggering exercises or processes, you can even know when to pause for effect, and jab your finger in the air for pithy emphasis, but if the messenger and the message are not on the same page, if you’re not here and now, surfing the present moment...our protective shields go up and we don’t (usually) know why.
And Results — the Holy Grail of the Speaking universe — are diminished.
√ How important is storytelling for successful presentation?
We are a storytelling culture. We get our meaning through stories. Good stories allow us to add visual and emotional impact to the information being delivered. Stories allow the audience to tap into the Now, the first-person present space with the speaker.
And, to the point, every great speaker is a great storyteller. (Find me a truly powerful, effective speaker who isn’t an accomplished storyteller and I’ll send you one of my Storytelling mp3’s — or I’ll buy you a car.)
√ I’ve heard you say that these days, if you want to really make your mark, you need to be a conglomerate. A conglomerate?
These days, if you’re a would-be speaker, a business hotshot, an entrepreneur or a network marketer; if you have a product, service or about-to-be-realized dream; it’s not enough to start speaking about it, or to do seminars & workshops about, or to have a great website about it, or to blog about, or to social network about, or to write a book about — you need them all!
In short: to truly make a lasting impact, you need to be a media maven: a compelling speaker...a credible author...a believable video performer...a master marketer. A Conglomerate!
And let me add, all these pieces need to come together in a congruent, harmonious stratagem...and not feel like it was designed by warring cousins.
√ I hear that if your clients get all 5’s (highest marks) on their evaluation sheets, you tell them that they blew it. Why?
The job of the speaker is to masterfully usher the reluctant audience members to the walls of their comfort zones and get their puggy little noses right up to the mirror — so that they can see the way they’ve been playing the game and hopefully discover an upgrade. Growth, transformation in the human species is begrudging, so there are bound to be a few people who get a tad irritated in the process.
When everybody gives high marks for a speaking performance, in essence they’re saying “you were a good entertainer, thank you for not challenging us, now we get to go back to our lives. Let’s eat.”
Great speaking is all about movement.
√ How important is it for entrepreneurs to be effective — even excellent — speakers?
I don’t care whether you’re a CEO or a receptionist, we all need to be able to effectively, masterfully present ourselves — to be better in our jobs, to keep moving up. And, when I say speaking, I’m talking about networking round robins, cocktail conversations, job interviews, short talks, keynotes, seminars — you name it.
Entrepreneurs should be actively seeking presentation opportunities, to sell their product or service, to connect with potential customers, to hone their message.
√ You teach your clients how to speak from the heart. Please elaborate on that.
Actually I teach my clients a number of things that are essential to mastering the craft: including the power of structure, media & audience training, the art of storytelling, using exercises and processes to involve the audience, promotional approaches.
But all of that is just a matter of time to get together. Once you’re in front of us, your rapport, your connection, your authenticity will either seal the deal or scuttle it.
In other words, who you really are is the mega-difference!
√ So many people have a fear of being up in front of an audience. How do we get over that?
I call it the Dread, and the absolute most important thing to say about it is that the Dread is about programming, and programming can be changed.
Call it by its rightful name. (Known in my classes as “Call the dog the dog and the dragon the dragon.”) This phobia, with all its associated hysteria, is just part of your programming. It is not you! In other words, there's nothing wrong with you because you freeze up in certain situations, or forget words, or hear the kettle drum you used to call your heart when you stand in front of a group. It's programming. It's performance anxiety. Except for very rare cases, this performance anxiety is caused by over-perfection. EXPECTATION. Like a blot on the projector lens, affecting everything at the screen, something way back then is blotting the confidence. You got it from Mommy (“You could have done that better, dear”), Daddy (“Trust me dearie, never sing, you sound like a foghorn”), your nanny (“I'll tell you when I want you to talk”), Sister Clara (“When I want your opinion, I'll give it to you!”), Uncle Harry (“Hey, balloon head, get me a beer”), society (“Who are you to be different!”).
You got it from living life.
As programming, it's changeable. If your inner story is that there must be something wrong with you because you hit the wall in front of people, you are stuck. You can't change anything that you're lying about, and it's a lie to say that this is anything but a pattern — regardless of what kind of hold this pattern seems to have on your life.
Here's the salient point: if you don't see the Dread for what it is — changeable programming — none of a plethora of potential techniques can have any effect. This phobia is just a phobia. It's not you but a fear-based pattern, and as such it's curable.