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Guest Blogger

by Nicholas Brice

Have you noticed we’re listening to a lot of people speaking online these days? Zoom, Teams, Webinars….

How many people really engage you and make you want to listen to what they have to say?

Asking our coaching delegates, I get sense that only 10-25% of speakers today really connect with their audience as well as they could. I must admit myself to sometimes drifting off to look at the strategically placed books, plants, pictures, and statues, or sometimes the rubbish in an attic, or the flickering virtual backgrounds as they struggle to deal with the low light. Is it just me, or does anyone else wonder why the person’s head is in the low/bottom half of the screen? It makes them look a little bit mouse-like. Or someone who is totally in shadow with the light source behind them and you can’t see whether they are laughing or crying. Maybe these things really don’t matter. It could be the theatre director in me acting up. I do apologise if that’s the case.

Online stage management…

I must admit though, that with some presenters, I find it too easy to drift away from what they are saying and start checking emails, doing other work etc.

Why do we disengage from a speaker online or face-to-face? We may sense they are (understandably) trying to sell us something for example, but we can soon switch off when we sense an agenda that is not for our benefit. We may feel that they just don’t really mean what they say, they may seem a touch lifeless and monotonous and our attention just slides away. Or simply, what they are speaking about just doesn’t land with us personally in a way that we value. So, we reach for the phone or new laptop window…while they chat away in the background.

With hybrid working, we will certainly rely more and more on online presenting to drive organisations forward. There will be fewer opportunities for us to sit together, hear someone speak and then to explore how to action their ideas. So, when we do commit to the expense to bring people together, we all need to do a great job and make sure things happen as a result of the meeting or event. And in truth, isn’t knowing you just did a great presentation one of the best feelings in the world?

We coach leaders and senior professionals to help them maximise the impact and memorability of their presentations, in our sessions this past year, we’ve found that these skills emerging as the ‘must-haves’ for the next stage of our working lives as we learn to live with COVID.

Engaging online…

When we are speaking online and face-to-face, we need to know how to:

CREATE CLARITY: We often need to get a lot of information across with real clarity. To keep people engaged, we need to combine great structure with the right blend of impactful visuals (not too dense!) and cool, user-friendly handouts and other tools. We need to use our voice and body language in a way that entices and engages people to keep them interested. Especially if our session is longer than a few minutes, but even if it’s short, we often need to create a potent image very quickly.

RESONATE WITH YOUR AUDIENCE: A great presentation often needs to be so much more than sharing information. It needs to be a meeting of hearts and minds if people are to act on what we say. We may need to create real clarity and unity in important values and practices in the business. We need to take steps to engage with head (get people thinking), heart (feeling) and hands (doing) when preparing our presentation. And if we can add some soul (inspire people to want act) too then we’ll have everyone much more fully on board to meet the key business challenges: digital transformation, customer experience innovation, waste/cost reduction etc.

INSPIRE ACTION: By now, everyone knows we often need to use storytelling and great visuals, plus some interactivity to achieve the above. But there’s a big difference between telling some hard to relate to, disembodied anecdote, and crafting a strong story, illustration, or metaphor with crystal clear signposts to people what they need to take away from it to act, in a way that makes them want to take those actions when we can’t see them.

Engaging people is a critical capability in a hybrid world…

Here are some clear how-to’s for improving speaker performance in these areas – drawn from the delegates on a recent programme:

  1. Really understanding my audience and what my topic means to them
  2. Use pauses
  3. Build trust by being my authentic self
  4. Use the screen as a stage, with illustrative movement and gestures
  5. Gain more confidence by trusting in myself
  6. Be honest in my presentation
  7. Use positive emotive experiences to engage people
  8. Engage the senses: seeing, hearing, feeling etc.
  9. Use rhetoric to engage hearts and minds
  10. Clarify some key headlines for impact and link them in a clear structure that flows

We’d love to come and offer you a FREE SPEAKER COACHING TASTER SESSION to give you an opportunity to identify your strengths and one or two new approaches to how you speak online and face-to-face. Of course, we’d love to help everyone in your organisation get to a new level too! Please get in touch and we’ll arrange an initial session with you and perhaps a colleague or two, three…up to six people total. Sessions will take about 50 minutes.

For more information about Speaking with Soul, check out our website: Speak with soul

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