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
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
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.