This part five of a five part series on the four main presentation styles. Last week, we covered the Authoritative Presentation Style which has the opposite strengths and weaknesses of this style. In the prior two weeks, we covered the Energetic Presentation Styleand the Analytical Presentation Style (Technical Presentations).
This week, we will cover the strengths and weaknesses of the Empathetic Presentation Style. (Psychologists call this style of presenter a Sanguine.) This is the style of presenter that is more “indirect” and “emotional”. Just as a review, by indirect, we mean that this style of presenter will often be more cautious and slower to act. By emotional, we mean that this style will focus more on the feelings of others than facts and data. You will find this style of presentation more frequently in certain industries such as the teaching, philanthropic organizations, and service industries.
Strengths of the Empathetic Presentation Style
RAPPORT AND TRUST: The absolute biggest strength of the Empathetic Presentation Style is that this presenter has a fantastic way of building trust and rapport with his or her audience. In fact, this style of presenter is excellent at making an audience feel at ease and is non-threatening. (This is the exact opposite of the Authoritative Presentation Style).
CONCISE: This style of presenter will often spend quite a bit of time planning and preparing for the presentation. As a result, he or she will likely be fairly concise and to the point. For the most part, this style of presenter doesn’t particularly like the actual speaking part. So, the Empathetic Presenter will try to condense the content down to just what the audience needs to know, and then sit down.
AUDIENCE FOCUSED: This presenter is really the only presentation style that naturally thinks about what they audience really wants or needs to know before designing the presentation. Even though we name this presenter Empathetic, the presenter will often appear to be Empathic to the audience. At the end of a good Empathetic presentation, the audience will often think, “That was just what I was looking for.”
Weaknesses of the Empathetic Presenter
NERVOUS: The biggest weakness of the Empathetic Presenter is that this presenter gets nervous speaking in front of a group very easily. While the audience will often love this type of presenter, the presenters themselves have a tendency to be self-critical. They don’t see themselves as being as effective as a speaker as the audience does. If you notice on the Shark Tank video above, the audience wants very much to give the presenter a chance to succeed. They are rooting for him. They are on his side. Once he realizes that and begins to just be himself, he does very well.
OVER-PRACTICE: This style of presenter will often over-practice to compensate for the nervousness. Of course, this over-practice tends to take away the natural warmth and connection with the audience. When the speaker doesn’t feel that instant rapport that he or she is used to, the speaker can become even more nervous. The key to overcoming this weakness is realizing your natural strengths and using these strengths to your advantage when you stand up to speak.
TENDENCY TO RUSH THE PRESENTATION: Because this style of presenter likes to be concise, just do what is required, and sit down, they sometimes will rush through a presentation. When this occurs, it can be confusing to the audience. The ultimate outcome of this confusion is that they audience will often have questions. Of course, having to remain in front of the group to answer questions just causes more nervousness.
Five Key Things that an Empathetic Presenter Can Do to Deliver a Better Presentation.
Get Into a Personal Story as FAST AS POSSIBLE.
Dump Your Notes.
Make Your Presentations a Discussion Versus a Lecture.
Focus on What You Did Well, Not What You Messed Up.
Use Your Creativity to Make Your Presentation Fun and Interesting.
We’ve covered the importance of adding stories and examples into your presentation in each of these presentation style sessions. However, for the Empathetic Style, adding stories is imperative. As you recall from a couple of weeks ago, stories have a fantastic way of building rapport with the audience. This is the natural strength of this style of presenter, so it is a great technique to use. In addition, though, stories can reduce nervousness exponentially. When we tell the audience a story from our own personal experience, all we have to do is play the video in our head of what happened. We just describe what we lived — what we experienced. As we tell the story, we look around the room and we see positive feedback from the audience. All of these things immediately reduce nervousness and allow us to make a positive connection with the audience.
One of our Fearless Presentations ® instructors is an Empathetic Style Presenter, and when she had completed her training, it was time to for her first class as the teacher. She wanted so much to do a good job. I could tell that she was nervous and afraid that she might forget something. I looked at her and said, “Do you remember what cased you to want to take this class the first time?” She nodded. “Do you remember how much more confident you felt when you finished that first class?” She nodded again. I said, “Just start this class by telling them that story. Tell them how the class helped you.” By the time she finished that two-minute story, the audience had a tremendous respect for her, and her nervousness dropped dramatically. It will happen for you as well!
The Empathetic Presenter will often fall into the trap of using a crutch to reduce nervousness. However, these crutches often actually cause nervousness. For instance, they might write out their presentation word-for-word and try to memorize it. Or, the might make note cards or might use the slideshow as their notes. In this case, they just pretty much write out every single thing that they will cover on a slide so that they don’t forget anything. While these things give the appearance of being helpful, most often, they have the opposite effect.
A few years after college, I joined a Rotary Club. One of the guest speakers at our meeting was introduced, and she apologies right away saying that public speaking was one of her biggest fears. She had a huge stack of 3 X 5 note-cards with her. She started out with a joke, and we all laughed. She was a truly likeable person, and we all wanted her to succeed. About five minutes into her presentation, she used her right hand to make an emphatic gesture, and her cards went flying. She stopped abruptly. Her pupils got unbelievably small. I was afraid she was going to pass out right then and there. However, she took a deep breath. She collected herself, and she carried on. The rest of the speech was fantastic. We got to see the real her. She was interesting and funny. She was personable and intelligent. We wouldn’t have had as good of an experience if she had stuck to fumbling with her notes.
The real strength of this style of presenter is their ability to connect with the audience. It is harder to do this, however, if the person is just lecturing to the audience. A better way is to make your presentation more of a dialogue versus a monologue. As an open-ended question. Ask the audience to give you their opinion about what you are speaking about.
Think about both the best date that you ever went on and the absolute worst date that you ever went on. There is a good chance that when you think about the worst date, you will often recall that your date did most of the talking without asking you anything. When you think about the best date ever, however, most likely, it involved a mutual discussion where your date solicited your input and then added to it. So if you think of your presentation as a date with your audience, you’ll see that the more one-way that the conversation is, they less they will like you.
In the Fearless Presentations ® classes, most of the one-hour sessions have a process where we 1) introduce a solid tip, 2) we give an example of this tip in action, 3) we let the class members practice using the tip, and then 4) we have a short discussion with the class members afterward to get their input on the practical application of the tip. As a strong Authoritative Presenter, I often zoom through this part when I’m the teacher. However, I have noticed, over the years, that the class instructors who consistently get the highest exit survey results are most often the Empathetic Presenters. I believe it is because they spend more time on the discussion part of the sessions. They focus on making sure that the content that was practiced is very practical and usable in the “Real World”, and I think that the class members really like this.
We are all overly self-critical. However, the Empathetic Speaker can take this to an extreme on occasions. So, a good technique to combat this is to have a more positive-focuses self-debrief. Immediately after each presentation, write down three separate things that you do well during the presentation. A good way to do this is to take one of those 3 X 5 cards that you used to use as a note-card, and write the three positive things on the front of the card. Then, flip the card over and identify one, single thing that you want to improve about your performance next time.
When you have fun, your audience will have fun. Yes, it is risky, but the reward is fantastic. Years ago, when I first started teaching presentation skills classes, I used to start one of my sessions with a unique statement. I’d tell the class members that, before they came into class, I placed a sticky-note under one of the seats. The note said, “You’re It!” I then told them that the person who has the note under their chair would be the guest speaker for the first 20 minutes of the class. I’d then have them check to see who had the note. Of course, there was no note. However, some of the participants were so sure that it was going to be them, that they’d turn the chair over and look very closely at every inch of the bottom of the chair. I’d then let them off the hook by picking up my chair and pulling off the sticky-note.
One of my instructors liked to use unique props in his presentations. He gave a presentation about how easily opportunities slip through our grasp if we aren’t diligently working toward a goal. He used a bar of hotel-sized soap as a prop. He used this prop over and over to reinforce his point throughout the presentation by reciting the same tagline about how things slip through our fingers. Then the audience got their own little soap as a parting gift.
Just think about ways to make your presentation more interesting for the audience. Then, when you finish, you will receive a ton of great compliments. (These are great for your confidence!)
What If I Have a Different Style of Speaking, But I’m Delivering the Presentation to an Empathetic Audience?
In a nutshell… Be nice. Take time to build rapport with the audience before jumping into your facts and figures. Start with a funny or self-deprecating story to get them on your side. Follow a clear set of bullet points that are easy to reinforce. And, of course, make your presentation fun for them.