Public Speaking

07Mar09

I usually agree with Seth Godin, but I think he is ignoring the value of strong narratives in giving a great presentation and distillation of the message to its core. Respect is an element, if you are a known commodity. But what if you are mid career Jane Smith and you are thrown into given a presentation at work about the latest renal ultrasound device?

The best presentations have a narrative or theme, which may not be self evident at first. As human beings, stories resonate with the kid in us. I remember listening to family stories at the kitchen table, being enthralled. But as we become more socialized and go to school, we forget how to tell or write a good story. A well written story has the drama of good versus evil, or David versus Goliath. There will be good guys and bad guys, and action driven by some universal motivations,  like greed or fear.

I do agree with Godin about not relying on bullet points. If the presentation is to really distilled down to 3 main points, then it makes for a more concise message. People like me, who give a lot of presentations, want to give the audience everything with a cherry on top. Giving too much information will cause people to zone out and the message will be lost.

Godin does say “The presenter who loves his audience the most, wins.” I interpret that to mean the presenter has done his homework and knows the audience. A speech to professionals who already have knowledge in the area, will be different from the same topic speech to a naive audience, who are learning about a new area.

Pro tips: One of my previous managers was excellent presenter, because he could integrate something from the morning news into his talk and make it really relevant to his audience. Ultimately he had love and respect from his peers, because of his reputation preceded him. Along the way he worked hard at his presentation skills.  As in most things, practice makes perfect.

– Brenda

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