Master the arts of creating and performing talks

It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it!

Jiffee was a Best of Show winner at Finovate Fall 2017.

I realize that most readers will not know what that means so let me explain. Finovate is a company that runs conferences around the globe where financial innovations are presented. Companies with “cutting-edge banking and financial technology” ideas have seven minutes to present their idea to a room full of bankers, financiers, and investors. You know how all credit cards now have chips embedded in them? That was a financial innovation. This fall, Jiffee won “for its tap & pay mobile technology that turns any device into a payment terminal, enabling consumers to pay anywhere and everywhere without relying on plastic credit and debit cards” (from the Finovate website).

As soon as the Best in Show announcement was made, someone tweeted:

Is best in show for the best product or the best demo?? May not be one in [sic] the same. #finovate

The question is an important one and makes us aware of a critical point: how you say it may be more important than what you say. What if the best idea at the show was presented so poorly that no one realized how good it was? What if an inferior idea was presented so well that everyone gave it higher marks than it deserved? Did Jiffee win best in show because it had the best product or because its presenters nailed the 7-minute show?

Speakers tend to undervalue the performance part of oral communication. Yes, you must have something worth saying before you speak, but that can become worthless if you cannot say it well. Think of times you have seen poor presentations lead to

  • Worthwhile new initiatives failing to generate buy-in
  • Better products losing the sale to inferior products
  • Quality suggestions being ignored at the staff meeting
  • Important information being forgotten at the training

On the flip side, you may be able to think of times you were fooled by great presentation skills. My wife and I have a juicer collecting dust, but the guy at the store made it seem like we couldn’t survive without it.

The important point here is that you must develop your presentation skills. Readers of Own Any Occasion know that there are six keys to effectively delivering a talk. Perhaps the most important of the six—and certainly the one most often missing—is life. Speakers do not have enough life in their voices: feeling, emotion, passion. In my work, I ask people the number one complaint they have about trainings and the most common answer is, “The speaker was boring.” Why? “He was so dull.” “She was monotonous.” You know the problem, don’t you? But have you critically evaluated your skills? Is it possible that you are sort of dull, too? Have you worked on adding life to your talks?

Try these ideas:

  • Using whatever device is convenient, record yourself saying this phrase: Nothing is more important than this. Play it back. Did you hear importance? Rerecord, with more life, and play it back. Better? Nothing is more important than this.
  • Observe other speakers in person or in media. Pay attention to how they add life to the words they speak.
  • Stretch yourself. It is common for people to tell me, “I’m just not that kind of person.” But you have to become that kind of person if you want to be effective. You may not match the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. as he says, “And I have dream today!” but you can be livelier than you currently are.
  • Watch this short video:

Don’t let good messages suffer because of poor performance. Understand the importance of delivering the message and devote yourself to improving each of the six skills of powerful presentation.