It's rare that I go to a presentation or speech where I think the presenter perfectly employed all the principles of good public speaking. That may be because I'm pretty critical when it comes to evaluating presentations. Or it may be because many presenters who speak in public aren't very good. Or it may be a combination of both!
But last week I heard the Tiger Woods of presenters. Marcus Buckingham, the guru of the "Strengths Revolution", was in town promoting his newest book, Go Put Your Strengths To Work, and I attended an hour and a half presentation sponsored by my local ASTD (American Society of Training and Development) chapter. Buckingham used every skill I teach in my workshops with effortless elegance.
He was well-prepared, spoke without notes and was clearly passionate about his material, used stories to drive home specific points, used humor effectively, repeated phrases for emphasis, relied on his slides simply for support rather than as a crutch, slowed down when he really wanted us to listen, modulated his tone to keep us engaged, handled some logistical A/V challenges with style...and I could go on.
But the thing that was most notable was his genuine and purposeful focus on the audience.
Now, Marcus Buckingham is a successful corporate executive turned entrepreneur, a best selling author and a consultant to Fortune 500 companies. A pretty well known, well connected guy. Someone who might be expected to be more concerned about promoting himself than caring about the audience. He is on a book tour, after all.
FOCUSED ON THE AUDIENCE
Everything he said and every gesture he used (or didn't!) was crafted to engage the audience, to make them comfortable, to relate to them, to involve them in his message. He spoke conversationally to a room of over a hundred people; he stopped and checked in after delivering a barrage of statistics; he poked fun at himself and made the audience laugh; he cited challenges he knew the audience related to; he left time for Q&A; in spite of a tight schedule, he stayed past his deadline to interact with people.
Was he selling books? Sure. But was he focused on delivering a valuable experience for the audience? Absolutely.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN ABOUT PRESENTING FROM MARCUS BUCKINGHAM?
My best advice is to go hear him speak if you ever have the opportunity. But until then, here are some of Buckingham's strengths that you could incorporate into your next presentation:
- Speak in a conversational tone, even if you are presenting to a large audience, by including stories, anecdotes and examples the audience can relate to.
- Ask your audience questions (rhetorical or not) to keep them engaged. Make these questions ones the audience might well ask themselves.
- Use a pause strategically to build anticipation for what you're going to say next.
- Show that you are genuinely happy to be there speaking with this audience by smiling and connecting with them.