When I’m working 1-to-1 with a client, the first question they ask is usually “how can I make my presentations more engaging?” Each client has their own unique situation, of course. They may be presenting in a school environment to hundreds of children, or they may be pitching to 3 or 4 decision makers in a swish meeting room. However, whatever the individual circumstances of the client, I approach this desire of wanting to come across in a more engaging way by starting from what I call the Three Pillars of Presenting:
- Body Language
Let me stress: as I progress with the client, I adapt and follow the uniqueness of their style and approach. However, let’s look at each of the Three Pillars and see how they can act as useful starting points for the 1-to-1 process.
Let’s take a very common scenario. You’re that teacher at a school, or the sales rep having to deliver that all important pitch. How do you put together a compelling presentation? Where do you start?
I have worked with thousands of clients over the years, and so often I hear the same answer to this all-important question: well, I just open up PowerPoint and begin by putting together some slides.
Don’t get me wrong, PowerPoint has power. It’s in the name! However, its power lies in its ability to SUPPORT you as a presenter. If we put the focus back on you, the presenter, let me rephrase the question: how are YOU going to engage your audience?
One way is to use a creative device called a HOOK. If you listen to any great speaker, you will notice they generally start not with ‘Hello, my name is BLAH BLAH, and I’m going to be talking to you about BLAHDY BLAH.’ No, they start with something that is going to draw the audience into their world. They might use:
- A story
- A question
- A strong visual
So, let’s recap. If you want to engage your audience, leave the PowerPoint aside and think about how YOU as a presenter can draw them in with one of the hooking techniques.
- Body Language
Another way I enhance the ability of 1-to-1 clients to engage with their audience is to look at body language. Let’s take one specific aspect that any presenter may find challenging: use of the hands, gestures.
So many presenters come to me unsure about what they should (or should not) be doing with their hands. Let me take you through a gesture activation exercise that I might do and that you could do at home.
- I get the client to think about a location they are familiar with. It’s better if it’s a place with which they have an emotional connection. It could even be the client’s own home.
- I get the client to develop their mind picture of that place by asking them questions: who might one see in that place? What might they be doing?
- Once the client has a clear 3D picture of that environment, I get them to describe it to me with words AND gestures. I encourage them to really explore the use of the hands to communicate their chosen location in the most visual and 3D way possible.
The exercise takes about a minute and allows the client to connect with gesture. It frees up their use of their hands, and makes their presenting style more VISUALLY ENGAGING to an audience.
Clients may have many issues around ‘voice’. One of the most common is SPEED: ‘I know I speak too fast, but I can’t help it.’
There’s no better way to break engagement with an audience than to speak too fast. One exercise I might do with them is to encourage them to pause and BREATHE after every important thought. Let’s take that sentence (in bold) and see how it might translate into clear, engaging speech:
One exercise I might do with them [PAUSE] is to encourage them [PAUSE] to pause [PAUSE] and BREATHE [PAUSE] after every important thought.
This feels weird for a lot of my 1-to-1 clients at first, unnatural, TOO SLOW, but with practice it becomes more natural and helps them to connect with and engage their audiences much more effectively.
These are just three ways in which I might help a 1-to-1 client present to/convince/persuade their audiences in a much more engaging way. I’ll stress again that each client is individual, and I will adapt my approach for each and every one. However, the techniques above are good starting points. Try them out and see if they work for you!
This article was written by Andrew Weale, expert trainer at Love Public Speaking. For 1-to-1 support in presentations training, email firstname.lastname@example.org.