Manage episode 376733900 series 2950797
In some professions, there is a lot of media scrutiny on what the speaker is saying. The organisation they represent also has very strict rules around who can say what. This makes giving the presentation very restrictive and difficult. Usually, the people in that line of work, are used to giving these types of presentations, so they are accustomed to be being very guarded in their remarks. They also become very guarded in the way they deliver the presentation. The danger is the message transmission is being killed off by the restrictions and rigidities of the content and their delivery methodology.
Sentences contain words and they deliver those words. The problem is they are giving every word equal treatment. Public speaking is not a democracy, but a dictatorship. A world ruled by key words and phrases, which must absolutely dominate the plebeian words which link and connect the core content together. These key words are handcrafted for special attention, with the view that their elevation during the presentation will drive home the key messages more effectively. Our speaker was a democrat, as far as not granting special favours to key words by hitting them harder or softer than the rest. He spoke in an even tempo, with the same power throughout the talk.
Given his profession, it was natural that he would read the document. That document had to be cleared for release and many eyes would have scrutinised it for any irregularities. It had been thoroughly cleansed of any potential controversy by the time it was presented. There was also simultaneous translation going on and in fact the translator had the same text in Japanese to work from. This is a golden way of ensuring that what is meant to be said, is coming across exactly as it should, in Japanese as well as English. Freestyling is frowned upon because this is where things can be said, as an aside, which make the front pages of the media and cause the speaker to lose their job. No wonder caution is the name of the game.
Does this mean that these types of talk are doomed forever to be dull and boring? I have mentioned voice modulation, through word and phrase emphasis as a way of departing from the usual monotone delivery. The latter is almost 100% guaranteed to put people to sleep. Pauses also can add gravitas to what we have said, as we allow our audience a little time to digest the deeper meanings and nuances of what we have just said. We can add gestures to bring strength to a point we are making, as we engage our body language and don’t just abandon our hands to the task of page turning.
We can work the room with eye contact. We can look at individuals in the audience, grab their attention and then read the next sentence to them. They feel we are appealing directly to them, as we again direct our eyes to theirs, after we finish the sentence. We cannot be satisfied with a broad sweep of the room with our eye contact, effectively looking at everyone at the same time and so therefore, no one in particular. This is where pausing is so powerful. By stopping what we are saying, we are forcing the audience to look at us, to hang on our next words in anticipation. This is how we can funnel attention. This means the speech has to be designed for this and not created as a mad rush to the end, to get it all done in the time allocated. Less is more for us and we should build in pauses into the delivery.
Our facial expressions are so much more powerful that any slides on a screen. We need to engage our face and combine our expressions with certain key words and phrases. It may mean becoming more animated in our expression, looking quizzical, upset, concerned, happy, excited, etc.
One notable absence from these types of rigid talks is storytelling. The presenters are usually elite, powerful people. They can relate stories about well known figures. They can drop names and get away with it, because it is all congruent with the circles they move in. The story can be cleared for telling and if necessary the name of the key person in the story can be hidden. The point can be attached to that individual, without identifying them by name and a strong connection made about the key message being communicated. It also allows the message to be humanised and as an audience, that is very appealing because we may not be able to move in such stratospheric circles, but we love hearing about what they are getting up to.
Getting our slide deck functioning properly is another simple fix. We don't compromise the approved content, but we can make it more accessible to the audience. As with many others, this speaker often had three or four slides all combined into one, such that the individual parts were too small in size and so hard to see. We should be aiming for one idea per slide and to make the content as large as possible on screen.
With a few tweeks, even the most rigid talk can be brought to life in the hands of a polished speaker. Because it so rare to see this done, most people go through life squelching the life out of their super formal talks, in their attempt to conform to the rigidities the organisation demands. If we know what we are doing, we can stand out and show how it should be done, no matter how restrictive the occasion.