Presentations: Tell a Short Story

One of my speech coaching clients in the Heath Care sector told me that she did not tell stories in her presentations because she had so little time to convey tons of information.

That is a common remark from my speech coaching clients.

And a common trap. The presenter wrongly believes that what she wants to say is so important that there is no time for fluff.

The reality is that no one really listens to what you say – until it is interesting to them. It is interesting to them when it grabs them – when it involves them – when they are in your presentation.

So, tell a story that puts them in the picture. The story could be as long as a few minutes or as short as 20 seconds - as long as it takes to put your listener in the story.

After some prompting, this client then told a wonderful story about a conversation she overheard in the waiting room. It was a heart-warming story. It illustrated a powerful lesson and it took 45 seconds to tell.

She had never told this story before because she did not appreciate the significance of it.

Maybe you can see the irony in someone from the Health Care sector not using the power of personal stories.

Guess What? That executive is now using more personal stories in her presentations. She was also recently selected to pursue an Executive MBA.

How do you express yourself when you present? Are you telling enough personal stories in your presentations?

George Torok
Speech Coach for Executives

“Kramer’s” Tirade: Lessons for Presenters

Michael Richards used to be known as the lovable and loony Kramer of the popular TV show Seinfeld. Now Richards is known as a racist.

Whether he is or isn’t a racist is unimportant. He demonstrated racist characteristics in his angry rant and with the words he used. He apologized – but it’s difficult to erase the image of that rant. If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck and feels like a duck, then it must be a duck. That is the way your audience judges you when you speak.

Tell an off-color joke over a drink with a friend - no big deal; however, do the same thing while presenting to a roomful of people and you will be crucified. It could derail your career, kill a deal or ruin the company.

When you present to an audience you are under extra scrutiny. Everything you do on stage is magnified. If you were boring, folks remember you as very boring. If you looked nervous folks remember you as going to pieces. If you talked down to people you will be remembered as totally arrogant.

The negatives tend to be remembered more than the positives. Did you notice that no one mentioned any of the good jokes that Richards told in that presentation? We just seem to remember painful moments more. Perhaps it is a defense mechanism. “Don’t go to Kramer’s presentations - they are too painful”.

The second lesson is to be prepared for things to go wrong during your presentation.
When a joke fails have a saver line. When your listeners look confused have a different analogy. When your equipment crashes know what you will do. When you make a mistake have a backup ready. That takes forethought, preparation and rehearsal.

The third lesson is to never speak before an audience in anger, fear or desperation. Never!

Please read that last sentence again. Maybe even write it on your notes of every presentation you ever deliver.

Let’s talk about how to deal with anger, fear and desperation in another post on this blog.

George Torok
Speech Coach for Executives

Your Speech has Three Parts

Opening – Body – Close

There are three parts to a good presentation. Guess which part bad speakers focus on? The Body. Guess which parts are the most important? The Opening and the Close.

Why are the opening and the close of your speech so important?

The opening is important because this is the first impression you make on your audience. This is your opportunity to grab their attention and establish rapport. Your credibility was established in your introduction (if it was done well).

The close is important to your speech because it is the last image and words they have of you. Thus it is what they are most likely to remember about you.

Picture this opening that I painfully witnessed. The speaker received a boisterous welcome thanks to the enthusiasm of the MC. When the speaker arrived on stage he needed to take the microphone from the MC. They obviously had not talked about nor rehearsed this part. The microphone was a headset. The speaker was clearly unfamiliar and uncomfortable with this type of microphone. As the speaker struggled to get the microphone on he complained that he did not like this and called out to the audience, “can everybody hear me?” He appeared unhappy that the reply was in the negative.

As the speaker struggled with the wire and his jacket, someone called out, “Take it off.” So he removed his jacket while fighting with the wire.

Finally he returned to center stage and mumbled “I wish I could start over again.”

It was a lousy opening to his speech - unprofessional, uninspiring and weak.

What about his close?

It was equally weak – but much shorter.

The speaker announced that he just “got the hook” while he made the cut gesture across his throat. He stated, “Well, that’s it” and left the stage.

A weak opening and a weak close; what a lousy speech - let’s hope that isn’t you.

The opening to your speech is the first impression and your close is the last impression. Make them powerful. The only way you can do that is with proper preparation, and deliberate delivery.

Remember three parts to your speech: Opening – Body – Close. Prepare and deliver all three powerfully - especially the Opening and Close.

George Torok
Speech Coach for Executives