Podium Coaching Blog
How to cure a Zombie presenter
by Halina St James
This is a the scary tale of the Zombie presenter – and how he got cured.
For the sake of this article, I’ll make him male, although there are just as many female Zombie presenters, too. The Zombie presenter appears in many business presentations.
The Zombie presenter is wooden. He stumbles gracelessly from one sentence to another. He avoids eye contact. In fact his eyes are glazed over – as if he’s in another world. He lurches about the room. He gets tangled in the cords to his LCD projector. He has trouble coordinating his slides and his notes. He breathes heavily and sweats. Thank goodness he has no weeping sores.
Fortunately there is a cure – a healthy dose of the Talkitout™ Technique. Here’s how I guarantee to bring Zombie presenters back to the land of the living from the land of the living dead:
- I teach then how to speak before they write.
- I get them to focus on simple words, simple sentences, one thought per sentence.
- I show them how to use the pause to overcome awkwardness.
Slowly I see life dawning in their undead eyes.
I see understanding that they don’t have to deliver a presentation as if they are the living dead.
A lot of people become Zombies presenters because they’re terrified of speaking. For these I have one final treatment. Focus on the audience. They really are your friends. Most audiences don’t want you to fail. They just want to learn from you. Or be entertained by you.
If you only focus on yourself and your fears, you eliminate much of the support the audience can give you.
All Zombie presenters need to know that.
Bedside manner is key to connecting with audience
by Halina St James
Recently my mother, who’s 85, had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in her left lung. She’s one of the lucky ones whose cancer was discovered early, was slow growing and therefore easily removed. Plus, she had one of the best thoracic surgeons in Canada, Dr. Yaron Shargall.
What struck my husband and I about Dr. Shargall, apart from his amazing medical skills, was his ability to communicate. When he told me the outcome of the surgery, he sat down, spoke slowly and was very patient as I took notes and asked questions. At no time did I feel rushed, even though he is an exceptionally busy man. At no time did he use language that confused me.
Dr Shargall also teaches medicine. When my husband took my mother in for a follow up visit, Dr. Shargall had a student with him. He asked the student to observe closely my mother’s behaviour. ‘First impressions matter,’ he told the student.
Then Dr. Shargall started talking to my mother. He leaned forward. His tone was calm. He looked her in the eye. He made a strong personal connection.
We should all take some tips from Dr Shargall. Next time you are making a presentation, or delivering a speech, or trying to engage with any audience, summon up your best bedside manner:
- Look the listener (or audience) in the eye.
- Make sure your body language says you’re engaged and listening.
- Watch the body language of your audience to see if they are understanding you.
- Match your tone to your content.
- Keep your language simple.
Add your voice to ‘the great conversation’
News organizations are notorious for keeping the stories they’re working on secret – until they are broadcast or published. It gives them an edge over their competition. But now a British newspaper is bucking the system.
The Guardian is conducting a bold experiment. Not only are they making their newslists public before the stories are published… they’re actively seeking your input.
Here’s how it works. They put a carefully selected portion of the national, international and business newslists in their daily blog. They’re encouraging you to contact their reporters and editors if you have any ideas or suggestions.
What’s important about this is that it acknowledges the need for people to participate. For the first time in history, we have the technology that allows us to have conversations with anyone, anywhere and any time. And we are doing it.
It’s the ‘Age of the Great Conversation’. We all have the opportunity to add to global conversations – and to be heard. For those in the communication industry, understanding this and tapping into it is a key to success.
Ironically, it’s not the person who keeps their information secret who holds the power. It’s the person who has the information and distributes it strategically.
Check out the Guardian’s newslists and add your voice to the Great Conversation.
Lessons for us all from school for politicians
Women politicians are still the minority in all governments around the world. The Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women wants to change that. So they run an annual Campaign School. There women who want to enter politics learn everything about filling out nomination forms, campaign ethics, door knocking strategies, media skills – and, of course, presentation skills.
Podium’s Halina St. James coached the women on the speeches they would use to kick off their election campaign. The women worked in groups, each preparing a volunteer ‘candidate’ using the Talkitout™ Technique. Then the ‘candidates’ delivered their presentations in front of the whole room.
Two things consistently brought thunderous applause and cheers: passion and storytelling. When a ‘candidate’ told a story straight from the heart, they really connected with the audience – especially when the story was personal.
Politicians have to connect with their audience. That’s what helps get them votes.
It’s just as important for the rest of us to connect with our audiences. We may not want to get votes – but we do want buy-in to our vision and ideas.
So take a tip from the Campaign School – tell stories, straight from your heart.
Want a Golden Brain? There’s an app for that
One of my favourite Apps is ‘Are You Left Brained or Right Brained?’ It’s a fun App that tells you which part of your brain is dominant.
Left brainers are logical, systematic, see the details, build the hardware. Right brainers are creative, free flowing, see the big picture, design the software.
Every once in a while, someone scores a ‘Golden Brain’ on the App. A Golden Brain is a person who uses both hemispheres equally… the perfect blend of creative and logical.
If Steve Jobs played with this App, I’ve no doubt he’d be a ‘Golden Brain’. His left hemisphere created the functionality of Apple products while the right designed the coolest look for them.
The day Steve Jobs died, I was working with some clients who called themselves heavy left brainers. Their speaking style reflected this. It was loaded with corporate jargon, convoluted constructions, multisyllabic words and way too much detail.
Yet there was such an enormous opportunity for creativity in their business. So we started exercising their right brain muscle. The first thing we did was consciously look for a creative way to get their facts across. The best way, they decided, was by storytelling.
Once they had the story, they used Podium’s Talkitout™ Technique to speak in their authentic voice. Right away their sentences became shorter, the words simpler and the message clearer. They made a powerful impact that resonated with their audience.
Making memorable presentations is not just giving your audience a left brain data dump. It’s accentuating your data strategically using the creativity of the right brain. That makes your message stick. It’s not difficult. You just have to make a conscious effort to find creativity… to exercise your right brain.
Try reading Daniel Pink’s book A Whole New Mind; Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future. With a little effort, you too can have a Golden Brain.
Farewell to a great communicator
We’re going to miss Steve Jobs.
And not just because he gave us iconic devices to help us communicate.
We’ll miss him for the way HE communicated.
He understood that, as a presenter, HE was the show. Not his slides.
So he stripped the slides down to basics.
Where possible he used images rather than words.
He understood that the power of communication lies in simplicity, story and passion.
And that presenters – not their slides – are the best conveyors of those three great qualities.
Thank you, Steve Jobs.