Presentation Styles and How They Differ from Presentation Types.
Ask most presentation skill experts what the ideal presentation style is, and you will likely get a variety of answers. Am I supposed to start with a story? Am I supposed to tell jokes? Are visual aids more critical to performance or is the content itself more important? Do I have to warm the audience up, or should I just get right to the point? The answers to these and other presentation technique questions are… yes. And, well.. no. The truth is that we all have specific strengths and equal and opposite weaknesses when we present. What works for some presenters can backfire on others. So, if you understand your specific strengths as a presenter, you can play on those strengths. If you know your weaknesses, you can shore those up as well.
Are We Talking about Presentation Types?
when you say Presentation Styles, are you talking about Presentation Types? Actually, no. Often, many people confuse “presentation styles” and “presentation types.” Presentation Styles are the public speaking techniques that an individual uses when he or she delivers a speech. Most presenters will develop a style that works for that presenter and stick to it. A presentation type is the purpose of the talk. For instance, some presentations are designed to inform the audience about new material. Others are designed to persuade. Still others are created to entertain. You will often see presentation types labeled in a public speaking class with names like, “Presentation to Inform” or “Persuasive Speech”. So, the type is outcome or purpose of the speech. The Style is the way that the speaker delivers the material. Two different speaker will often be able to deliver the same, exact type of speech with two separate and distinctive styles.
How Do I know My Particular Presentations Style?
When I first began training to be a professional speaker, I decided to join a Toastmaster Club to get more practice. I went to this club for the better part of a year, before I quit in frustration. Since I already had quite a bit of presentation training by that point, I already had a good idea of many of my strengths and weakness as a presenter. The first time that I gave a formal speech in the club, I got good positive feedback. I felt pretty good about myself. However, as I began progressing through the prepared speeches, some of the feedback began to get a little odd. I just assumed that this was because the Grammarian changed each week, and some were better than others at coaching. I didn’t realize until much later what my real resistance was, though.
It turns out that each of these coaches were providing me feedback based on what worked for THEM when they presented. Since each of these people had a different style than mine, some of the feedback was accurate, but a lot of the feedback really fell flat. I noticed the same thing as I took more and more presentation classes. Many of the instructors in these classes were just trying to get their students to do exactly what they did. In fact, if you ask most people who go through a presentation skills class, they will say, “It didn’t really work for me.”
Oddly enough, after I had been a speaking coach for a couple of years, one of my students invited me to his Toastmaster Club. It was a totally different experience. The presenters there were just like me. They had a blunt and frank delivery mixed with humor. I felt right at home. They were using my style.
By the way, I’m not telling you to keep interviewing coaches or keep visiting different clubs until you find a style that suits you. Just the opposite actually. If you do this, you will likely stunt your growth as a presenter. In retrospect, even though I was more uncomfortable at the first club, I would have grown more there if I had stuck with it.
The Solution was Discovered by Hippocrates about 2300 Years Ago.
Hippocrates was the first philosopher/doctor to present a theory about personality temperaments. He claimed that there were four main personality styles. In fact, there are hundreds of modern-day books and studies based on this theory. If you have ever taken a Myers-Briggs test or participated in a DiSC profile meeting, you were experiencing the modern versions of this theory.
When I first began training instructors to teach public speaking classes, I realized that I needed a way for these less experienced coaches to identify true strengths and weaknesses of each presenter that they were coaching. Early on, I bought some of these personality temperament tests and had class members complete them. For the most part, that worked pretty well. However, from time to time, the tests would be unbelievably inaccurate. It was odd. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they didn’t. So, I spent months researching, and I eventually traced the theory back to the source. I just read what Hippocrates wrote. When I did, it was SO SIMPLE! Anyone could understand it. Anyone could use it. So, I made it a part of the Fearless Presentations ® class.
This simple understanding is one of the things that makes the Fearless Presentations ® coaches so much better than other speaking coaches.
The Answers to Two Simple Questions will Determine Your Presentation Styles
Hippocrates identified four specific personality temperaments. I actually found a carving that was dated a couple hundred years after Hippocrates that identifies the four groups pretty well. The two questions that will determine which group you fall into are the following:
- Are your INDIRECT or DIRECT?
- Are you EMOTIONAL (People Oriented) or LOGICAL?
Indirect people tend to be more cautious. They would rather do things right the first time than redo the action. Direct people tend to be faster to take action. They want to capitalize on opportunities. They realize that they may make a mistake but see mistakes as part of the learning process. Indirect people are often described as being thorough or detailed. Direct people are often described as being energetic.
Don’t let the word Emotional confuse you. By emotional, we just mean more people oriented. They are more in tune with other people and sensitive to the wants and needs of others. Logical people tend to be more “nuts and bolts” or “black and white” kind of people. They look at data to make decisions. These presenters want facts and proof.
So, the Direct/Logical presentation will deliver just enough facts to prove his or her point, and then move on. They are concise and decisive. The Indirect/Logical is thorough and analytical. For them, a few facts are good and too many facts is just enough. The Direct/Emotional presenter wants things to be upbeat and entertaining. For them, the fewer facts, the better. The Indirect/Emotional presenter will want to please the audience with a few details. They are often the most in-tune with what the audience wants but tend to be more nervous about their performance.
The Four Main Presentation Styles
In this article, I’m just going to give a summary of the four different presentation styles. However, each summary will have a link to more details about each group can maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses. So, once you know your style, click the appropriate link to find out more details about how to become a better speaker.
The Authoritative Style (Direct/Logical)
The Energetic Style (Direct/Emotional)
The Analytical Style (Indirect/Logical)
The Empathetic Style (Indirect/Emotional)
The natural strength of the Authoritative Style is that this speaker will often look poised and in control. Although he/she might be nervous, this speaker will likely still give the appearance of confidence. In addition, this person often delivers presentations quickly and with natural energy. Although this presenter does speak faster, he or she will develop each point using solid, logical proof before moving on. They also will likely use humor to warm up the audience. This speaker loves metaphors and analogies, because those techniques are clever. The major weakness of this style, though, is that the audience will sometimes be offended by the delivery style. In fact, some listeners may describe the speaker as condescending or overly blunt.
Let’s make this meeting FUN! The energetic style has natural enthusiasm. This presenter also speaks quickly, but unlike the Authoritative presenter, he or she will often jump from point to point without a lot of factual evidence. Energetic Style presenters have natural charisma, and they thrive on audience input. So, this speaker will be more likely to want to encourage audience participation. They love to be creative. As a result, you might see a common theme among all of the bullet points or a clever play on words. They also like to use pictures and photos instead of bullets or facts. The biggest weakness of this style is that they often deliver what I call the 50,000 foot level presentation. They tend to skim the top of a lot of different information without developing much of the presentation in depth. So their presentations are entertaining, but at the end, the audience is saying, “So, what was the point of that?”
Details. Details. Details. The Analytical Style is big on content. The more content, the better the presentation. This presentation style is going to be extremely thorough. The person will likely do a bunch of research prior to the presentation. Analytical presenter will deliver their presentations in a slower and more methodical way. This style is more likely to use charts and graphs as well. The biggest weakness here, though, is that this presenter will often go overboard on content. He or she might prepare two or three hours worth of content for a 15 minute presentation. This style also has a very funny dry sense of humor that can be very charming. However, they often focus more on the dry content than the entertainment part of the presentation. As a result, audience members may often describe this delivery style as boring.
The Empathetic Style of presenting is, by far, the most audience focused. This presenter will often spend a great deal of time preparing for a presentation, because they want so bad for the audience to understand them. They want to please the audience. This presenter will often write out their content either in notes for each slide or as very detailed bullet points on their slides. They do this because they don’t want to forget or leave out something important. Empathetic Style speakers love to include quotes from experts and statistics to prove their points. The biggest weakness of this style of presenter is that he or she will often be more nervous as a speaker. A lot of the things that this person will do to reduce nervousness will often actually cause more nervousness. For instance, relying too heavily on notes will sometimes cause them to lose that natural connection with the audience. That loss of the natural strength will sometime increase nervousness.
Maximizing Your Strengths While Minimizing Weaknesses.
No single presentation style is going to be perfect for every presentation. However, some presentation styles fit better for some presentations. For instance, an Empathetic Style presenter will do much better delivering a Eulogy than an Authoritative Style. The Energetic presenter will often give a better motivational keynote than the Analytical Style presenter. With all that being said, though, just because your delivery is of a certain style, doesn’t mean that you can’t be a fantastic presenter when you deliver different TYPES of presentations.
The key to making a great impression on your audience is to maximize your natural strengths and minimize your natural weaknesses. An easy way to do this is to look at the strengths of other presentation styles and adopt some of those things to include in your own style. For instance, if you are an Analytical or Empathetic speaker, purposefully speak a little faster to add some energy into your delivery. If you are an Authoritative or Energetic Style of presenter, spend more time researching or preparing your speech. (Don’t just fly by the seat of your pants like you normally do.) If you are an Authoritative or Analytical presenter, interact with your audience a little more. Make your presentations a two-way conversation versus a one-way.
That is one of the main reasons why the Fearless Presentations ® class is so successful. Our instructors aren’t going to try to force each class member into a presenter mold based on their own strengths. The instructor, instead, will identify those natural strengths that each presenter has. Then, the instructor will help nurture those strengths. Finally, the coach will add in a few strengths from other presentation styles so that the speaker is more relatable. This process works 100% of the time.
To look for a Fearless Presentations ® class in your area, click here.