This is part five of our series on Improving Communication Skills. In part one, we talked about how a great communication coach can help you improve your communication skills more quickly. Next, we showed you a few simple things that you can do to shut down a heckler or someone who is peppering you with negative questions. In part three, we gave a number of ways to build trust and rapport with your audience. Then, finally, last week, we covered a few conflict resolution tips.
Part 5: How to Gain Enthusiastic Cooperation from Your Audience.
Show Energy and Excitement
Your audience will never have any more energy or enthusiasm about your presentation than you do. If you want you audience to be enthused about your topic, you have to present your ideas with enthusiasm as well. The first "Motivational Speaker" that I ever came across was a guy named Les Brown. I was in college, and my dad sent me a cassette tape of one of Brown's speeches. I was busy with classes, so I let it sit on my dorm room desk for months before I took a trip to Denver for the summer. I mistakenly packed my belongings on my handy music bag that had slipped into the floorboard of my car while I was packing. When I got to the Texas/New Mexico boarder, I was at the base of the Rocky Mountains and out of range of any radio stations. That was when I realized that I would have to unpack my entire car on the side of the road to get to my tune stash. So, I slipped the Les Brown tape into the player.
The first thing that I noticed was how excited he was about his presentation. You could feel his energy through the car speakers. He was giving fantastic success tips, quoting famous thinkers from the past, and telling very funny stories about how he personally overcame so many obstacles in his life. His energy was contagious. I must have listened to that same 30-minute tape four times on the trip. It was like he was communicating directly to me. I loved it. I didn't find out until much later that the recording that I was listening to was in front of 30,000 or more people. Each of those 30,000 people paid a huge fee to hear Brown speak, and I guarantee that each and every one of them felt that they got their money's worth! If you want to win people to your way of thinking, show some enthusiasm!
Practice Two Way Communication.
Most people think of a presentation as being a monologue from the speaker to the audience. Come to think of it, I guess most are. However, that is one of the main reasons why most presentations suck. Great presenters consider a presentation to be a conversation with their audience. One of the reasons that we focus so much on delivering content in your presentation that the audience really wants to hear is to make the presentation a dialogue versus a monologue. When you design your presentations, you have to put yourself in the shoes of the audience member to identify what he/she wants or needs to know about the topic. Alternatively, you can conduct surveys with your audience prior to the speech.
My favorite way to tailor the content of my speech to the group, however is with audience participation. (For details about how to create a dialogue with your audience click here.) You can actually ask open-ended questions to your audience as you present, and use the responses that they give you as the bullet points for your presentation. This allows your audience to help you create the content based on their feedback. Although this is a fairly high level presentation skill, when you get good at it, your audiences will absolutely love your presentations. (By the way, this is what our instructors do each and every time that they deliver a Fearless Presentations ® presentation skills class. That is one of the reasons why we get such high exit survey ratings from our students.)
Ask Questions Instead of Giving Orders.
There is a big difference when you say, "You will do this=because you have to," and "What would happen if we did this?" When we order someone to do something, they may comply out of obligation, but they won't really want to do it. However, when we ask them what the benefits are of doing what we are asking them, they will come up with a series of reasons why they actually want to do the task. This is one of the techniques that the introduce and spend a lot of time explaining and practicing in Fearless Presentations ®.
Basically, if you create a really good bullet point that has a benefit to the audience built into it (See Audience Focused Result Oriented Bullet Points), you can, pretty much, just ask your audience the bullet point. I'll give you an example.
- Implementing the new automation software can help us reduce errors and save time.
- In what ways would implementing the new automation software can help us reduce errors and save time?
The first way, we are using logic to persuade the audience, so if they follow our logic and believe us, we will persuade them. However, when we ask them the open-ended question, every answer that the audience gives will actually help them persuade themselves. We just become the facilitator.
Use Examples and Stories to Teach.
Throughout history, we have thousands of examples of stories being used as teaching tools. At the end of every Aesop Fable was the phrase, "The moral of the story is..." Jesus used parables to convey lessons to his followers. Stories are powerful. They take the audience member on a journey where all of their senses are in tune. So, if you want to persuade your audience, just remember a great story related to the point that you are making, and use that story as your evidence. Your audience will love the story, and it will actually make your job as a presenter much easier as well.
One of my graduates from a prior class came back through the class for a second time, this week. During the session, he mentioned watching Billy Crystal give Muhammad Ali's eulogy. I have to admit,that I had never seen this presentation. We pulled it up on YouTube during the lunch break, though, and he was correct. It is a funny, emotional, and powerful presentation. It is also a fantastic example of what a good story can do to help you persuade (and entertain) your audience.
For More Details about These Communication Tips
For more details about these communication tips, you can purchase my book 28 Ways to Influence People from Amazon.