Thursday, December 6, 2012

Focus on the Wood, not the fire

Are you looking to improve your public speaking skills? Public speaking is more than simply trying to look good in front of a live audience.  We approach it as a science in making the audience look good.

The principle is counter intuitive to many people and our competitors.  Many say they are audience focused; however, then they tell you how to “look good” and how they will “improve your performance.”  Using the metaphor of building a fire to warm yourself.  Do you put wood on the fire to make it bigger or do you hope and wait for the fire to get bigger, then throw more wood on it?
Focusing exclusively on the audience is throwing wood on the fire to make it bigger, focusing on your performance is looking for a big fire to throw wood on.

Even though there are tens of thousands of excellent presenters, most presentations are poor in terms of communicating a clear message.  I sit through hundreds of presentations a year and ask people around me about the presentation. 

I ask questions like, “Did you enjoy the presentation?”  

He or she mostly responds, “Yes, it was excellent and the presenter was excellent and fun to listen to.”  

I follow up with, “What single idea was most important to you, or what point will you take from this presentation and use in your work or private life?” 

This person almost always replies, “Oh, lots of things.  She was great, I’m glad I came here.”

 I press on, “Can you recall any one specific thing?”  

Commonly, they respond, “Oh there are so many things it’s hard to pick just one.
I always back off at this point.  Clearly, the speaker entertained and left a nice impression, but, did not communicate his/her message.

Do I just find people who “don’t get it”?  I think not, it has happened too many time, thus I suspect the speaker. The point I am making is that most speakers, although great performers and very likable, do not start out with a clear message and thus the audience loves the speaker, yet did not benefit from a clear message or call for action. 

Could this be you?

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