Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Catch the ‘conversational asides’ to make your presentation truly engaging and impactful

I have written before about the benefits of speaking your words out loud as you create a presentation. It makes it all the more fluent and manageable. Above all, though, it steers you clear of dressing your words in a ‘cloak of formality’, as tends to happen almost automatically when you apply pen to paper or fingertips to the keyboard.

Similarly, advertising legend Dave Trott has blogged (here) about writing advertising copy ‘as if you’re talking to a bloke in a pub and trying to convince him’.

So you need to keep your communication conversational in tone, but I have found when coaching business executives that you actually need to go a little overboard to make this happen to best effect.

One person I was working with recently had three big points to make, the first being to convince her colleagues that: ‘Our Service Engineers must be allowed to focus their work and training exclusively on maintenance tasks’. This sounded somewhat unexciting to me and it was clear she was struggling to get the point across to her colleagues. So we stopped for a coffee break and I chatted very informally about the challenges she was currently facing. She became progressively more heated as she explained that her Service Engineers were having more and more work and responsibilities piled upon them. Eventually she reached a crescendo, exclaiming: “they expect my Service Engineers to be Superman; they are not Superman; they never can be”!

That”, I replied, “is what you should say – with all the passion you have just shown, and some imagery to help. It will make your message impactful and memorable, and it will create the best chance of a positive response from your colleagues”.

So we removed a slide full of words about the parameters of responsibility and training and replaced it with a simple image of Superman. A little animation then inserted a big cross across Superman’s chest as the speaker pronounced: “They are NOT Superman. But they can be superheroes if we allow them to focus on their core responsibilities”.

It’s still too early for feedback on the extent to which a fresh attitude to the Service Engineers has ensued, but immediate reaction came with the Chief Executive deciding to scrap his planned closing remarks and re-run the ‘Superman Talk’ as part of the conference’s finale. We had achieved this by going further than just making the presentation conversational in tone – we had used a third party to ‘catch the conversational asides’ that really got to the heart of the matter.

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