Stood by the roadside thumbing lifts was an empowering experience. Drivers who stopped validated what I was doing and thus hitchhiking became meaningful, worthwhile and rewarding.
Whilst it wasn’t rocket science, I always thought carefully in advance about my appearance as well as how and where I stood. And I looked at the driver as the vehicle approached. By thinking about how I should present to influence the audience, I was doing my best to sell the idea of being offered a lift…
As the pace of life speeds up, so we have to make more decisions and judgements than ever before. Consequently, our frontal brain lobes develop automatic short-cuts and become wired to rely more heavily on first impressions. With constant interruptions from, and access to the digital world, we struggle to cope with the amount of information and data streaming into our heads. For more on this, read Klingberg’s ‘The Overflowing Brain’.
Hitchhikers normally have only a maximum of a few seconds to influence a driver’s decision. So to get the desired result, a simple and audience-focused presentation style is critical.
Present to influence the audience
But when you present to influence the audience the communication process is a more complex because there are more people with whom to deal with and typically greater amounts of information to convey. However, the fundamental principles learnt from hitchhiking hold.
A sound presentation needs to inspire confidence and the message must be conveyed in a clear and easy to digest format. Presenters must also prepare and look the part. To see someone executing these principles brilliantly, see this TED video of a leading voice of education ‘Sir Ken Robinson’.
Throughout his presentation Robinson speaks eloquently and directly to the audience. There is no distracting use of PowerPoint and the laced humour together with carefully controlled pace ensures people are drawn to him. If you’re interested, this post looks at key influence issues of trust, liking and reciprocation in more detail.
Unfortunately, far too many presentations fail to get close to the quality of Sir Ken’s work. To present to influence the audience requires a combination of practice, experience, confidence and passion for the subject. Yet we can all do it as long as we’re prepared to put in the effort.
However, there’s another fundamental reason why presentations are not as good as they should be. And this one’s much easier to remedy. According to advertising guru Jon Steel, presentations are poorer because of the way ‘PowerPoint’ is used – or abused as this ‘stop-killing students’ presentation highlights.
Jon’s excellent and highly recommendable book ‘Perfect Pitch’ demonstrates how and why we use PowerPoint as a crutch. Not only does this make us lazy but it also takes the focus of the presentation away from our ability to communicate directly and coherently with the audience. How many times have you sat and been bored by someone going through endless PowerPoint slides, each one packed with mind-numbing information? For top ‘tips’ on this subject, read the blog post: ‘If you’re going to screw up a pitch, here’s how’.
For over 25 years Jon Steel has experienced remarkable success at the top of the global advertising industry. His book outlines precisely how to present ideas convincingly (like hitchhiking; simple, personal and audience focus are key messages). Reading through the pages you will also discover how people like Sir Ken Robinson are able to stand on stage, talk for 20 minutes without barely moving and then receive a standing ovation.
Entrepreneurs must constantly pitch ideas. And employers are always looking for people who know how to deliver sound presentations and influence the thinking of others. If you can present to influence the audience in a confident, clear and meaningful manner you will have a special talent that will last you a lifetime.
Key Learning Points: Present to influence the audience by thinking about the people in front of you, what message to convey & how to keep things clear. Watch presenters like Sir Ken Robinson to hone skills and avoid using PowerPoint if it detracts from and dilutes the quality of what you say.