Making Good Speakers Great

Presentation: Making the Connection

When you give a presentation, your aim is to make a connection that produces a result. Whether you’re reporting or training, selling or entertaining, you must make a connection with your listeners or you’ve wasted your breath.

There are three dimensions to that connection. You must be connected to your self, connected to your message and connected to your listeners. Any problem with your presentation can be traced to a disconnection in one or more of those areas. Let’s look at each one.

Being connected to your self challenges you to engage every aspect of your being in the interaction, so you really come out and play, and your listeners can appreciate you as a person. Physical tension, mental distraction and emotional dissonance distort your performance, prevent people from seeing the real you and undermine the presentation. Practicing relaxation, breathing, meditation and other activities that promote awareness and optimal wellbeing will enhance your potential for making a personal connection.

Obviously, being connected to your message challenges you to know your content and clarify the core message your listeners need to retain. But it goes deeper than that. You must know why it’s important to communicate the message and feel its significance, because that energizes your performance. Delivering the information is not enough. Examine your material. Ask yourself, “What is most important? Why is it important? What will happen if they don’t get the message?” You are the vehicle. Your listeners take their cue from you. If you feel it, they will feel it. If you don’t feel anything, they won’t feel anything. Effective presentation is all about how you make them feel.

Being connected to your listeners challenges you to build relationship. There are practical considerations such as body language, projecting your voice and making eye contact. And there are abstract elements such as owning the space, reading the audience and being responsive. Record yourself on video so you can see and hear how you relate to your listeners. Are you engaging? Does your persona reinforce your objectives as a speaker? The main point is that you’re there to serve your listeners, not to be a star. You might have the floor, but it’s all about them. So, from a place of confidence and respect, you reach out and invite them into a shared experience that benefits them in some way.

As you can imagine, the three dimensions of connection are interrelated, and not always distinct. There are times when being connected to your message and being connected to your self might seem indistinguishable, and being connected to your self is probably a prerequisite for being connected to your listeners. But if they occasionally overlap, that doesn’t diminish the importance of one in relationship to the others.

When a coach evaluates your presentation skills, they’re essentially getting a sense for how well you’re establishing connection. Good speaking skills cover a multitude of details, but that high-level perspective helps to identify which details need your attention. Exploring ways to enhance your connection to your self, your message and your listeners will always move you closer to being a more engaging and successful speaker.

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