I don’t know about you but as the world slowly grinds to a halt and our sense of normalcy is pried from our unwilling hands, I have discovered more time for reflection. I am usually an obsessive, goal-oriented, forward thinker so I did not initially welcome this with open arms. In fact, it causes me quite a bit of anxiety because I find myself constantly feeling like I should be doing something “productive.” In an effort to exercise some level of control over my self-imposed mind-prison, I decided to examine this problem through a filter with which I am very familiar, presentations. I thought back to the last speeches I had either heard, given or coached others to give and challenged myself to uncover a blind spot. In other words, I was attempting to find a commonly overlooked aspect of public speaking that can adversely impact presentations. After drifting all the way back to Pericles and Demosthenes, who were oratory giants in the days of the Roman Empire (see . . . I told you I had too much time on my hands), I discovered something hiding in plain sight.
If this one thing were understood, it would instantly help speakers to be more effective at connecting to their audiences and persuading them to their points of view. This single idea, this subtle change, could be the degree of difference between a good speaker and a great speaker. Warning ― I need to take you backward in order to take you forward, so stay with me. To make sure it goes down smoothly, I’ve converted it into an analogous, bite-size chunk.
Think about the preparation process for the last presentation you delivered. At the time you committed to giving the speech, one of your first thoughts was most likely about your audience. Let’s call them your target. Then, of course, you thought about your content or message. Let’s call that your arrow. And, what’s a target and an arrow without a bow? That’s like having peanut butter and jelly without bread. Your bow is your in-person or video delivery mechanism for your arrow (message). So you now have a target, an arrow, and a bow. What’s amazing is that, even as you read through this example, if you’re like most people, your mind naturally, jumps to “Ok, I’m ready to shoot!” Or, in the case of a presentation, we would say, “OK, I know my audience; I’ve got my message and I’m ready to pitch, tell, sell, show or demonstrate.”
But sadly, in most cases, if we were to measure the overall effectiveness of a presentation by how close the speaker came to hitting the bullseye, we would find that they weren’t even close. The one important element that we’ve overlooked in our archery metaphor was the pull back. Before we can propel the arrow toward the target, we have to pull back in order to gain the requisite power. Not only that, the pull back step is also important because it affects your aim.
If your presentations are technically or emotionally off the mark it’s very likely that you’ve miscalculated your aim or neglected to pull back and tap into your personal power. Remember, it’s ready-aim-fire, not ready-fire-aim!
Dez Thornton is a communications coach who helps you say the right words in the right way when they matter most! For more information, see www.dezthornton.com.