Monday, October 15, 2012

Give your audience a serious wedgie by @DouglasKruger

This week professional speaker, author and trainer Douglas Kruger writes for us.

Douglas Kruger


Douglas Kruger

Scores of corporate presentations today still suffer from the scourge of the dreaded Document-Speak. Document-Speak is a sort of social virus. One person does it in public and the whole company catches it.
Diagnosing Document-Speak:
It happens when an otherwise friendly, warm-blooded human being ceases to sound human and starts sounding like a legal brief. They stand up before an audience and their sentences become longer. They hide behind formality and distance. They go to great pains to appear as emotionally deceased as language can help them to achieve. For a coup de grace, they generally back it all up with a mind-numbing litany of PowerPoint slides. The end result is predictable: mass air-gulping among the audience. When the speaker leaves the room, their points become mist rather than memories.
There is a better way:
Experienced speakers know that public speaking is a thrillingly powerful medium. The human mind sits up and takes notice when another human speaks with passion and conviction. We’re wired that way. But passion and conviction are choices, and their design is largely informed by language.
What sort of language?
Good speakers don’t do Document-Speak. They practice the alternative: High-Impact speak. High-Impact speak is emotive, creative and vivid. It gets you noticed and it keeps your messages front of mind, long after you’ve left.
Looking for a little electricity in your own presentations? Use the following six devices to add sizzle to your sentences:
1. Start by sounding human
When you chat with your friends, would you use a sentence like, “It is has come to my notice, in terms of our internal policies, that wasteful expenditure is causing a detrimental effect upon our bottom-line profits”? Doubtful. A human being would say, “We’re wasting too much and it’s hurting us.”
Remember that you are the thought-leadership in the room. When your audience perceives that you have slipped into ‘formal speech delivery’ mode, they will subconsciously switch off. It’s as if you have given them the cue: ‘Here comes the speechy stuff; you may all go to sleep. I’ll wake you when I’m really communicating again.’ A conversational tone keeps them engaged.
2. Craft interesting titles
Yes, you can deliver an address titled ‘A Critical Look at the History and Production of Fireworks.’ But how much more engaging to have the MC say, ‘Help me to welcome Joe, with his speech titled ‘Bang! – Making the Fire Work!’
One of my keynote speeches is about the topic of personal initiative. I call it ‘The Rules of Hamster Thinking.’ Your title is an opportunity to create interest before you even stand to speak. Take the time to develop a hook.
3. Metaphors help you to sum up complex ideas quickly
Certainly, you can show a busy graph depicting the in’s and out’s of any idea. Or you could simply use a metaphor that captures the essence of the idea, and say, “It’s like…”
On the runaway success television show, Top Gear, British presenter Richard Hammond once described a Porsche’s rear-mounted engine as being, “A bit like building a pyramid with the pointy bit at the bottom.”
Metaphors sum up complex ideas quickly. Most of the detail in corporate presentations is superfluous, because there is a world of difference between mere information and actual message. Information requires graphs. Message can be done with metaphors.
Professional speakers and trained Toastmasters rarely use fussy PowerPoint graphs. They know that having information is only half of a speaker’s job. Communicating that information in impactful and memorable ways is the full obligation.
4. Repeat catch-phrases often and your point will be remembered
Simple. Memorable. Easy to repeat.
Advertisers know the value of a good catch-phrase, and top speakers understand it too. Remember the old war-time phrase ‘Loose lips sink ships’? That’s the kind of easy-to-repeat mnemonic slogan you should develop and use often in your presentations.
5. Alliteration adds impact
In one of my contest speeches, I spoke about the glib nature of self-help quick fixes. I packaged it in the following sentence: “The treadmill of self-improvement churns out Kellogg’s Rice Competitors, Kentucky Fried Performers, Supersized McMen and Women; egos bigger than buildings.” Alliteration adds musicality to your sentences. Its rapid-fire nature also helps you to create the impression of being ‘on a roll’ when you speak, which adds to the perception of passion.
6. Visual devices bring dry information to life
Don’t just give information. Create mental pictures. The human mind becomes more engaged when points are delivered in story form, with character, setting, emotion and the description of action. We do not ‘feel’ a PowerPoint graph the way that we feel a story.
Use language that creates the perception that you are ‘re-living’ the story as you tell it, and you will pin souls to seats and set fire to minds. Best of all, you will be remembered.
The next time you pen a presentation, challenge yourself to raise the bar on your use of language. Remember that Document-Speak kills speeches. High-Impact language gives your script mouth-to-mouth. The human mind sits up and takes notice when a person speaks with passion and conviction. Take the time and trouble to design language that captures the imagination – give them a linguistic wedgie! – and your audiences will thank you for it.

Douglas Kruger is a 5 x winner of the SA Championships for Public Speaking and author of '50 Ways to Become a Better Speaker.' Read about his topics or see him in action at Connect with him on Linked In or Twitter: @douglaskruger. 

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