Tips for Presenting: Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Case Studies: Malcolm Gladwell • Federico Fellini • Ronald Reagan • Howard Rosenberg • Oliver Sacks, MD • David McNeill • Nikita Khrushchev • The Kennedy-Nixon Debate • James Fallows • Marcel Marceau • The IPO Roadshow Study
“Actions Speak Louder Than Words” is the maxim.1
You are going to find many techniques in this book to optimize your content and your delivery, and overarching all of them is a concept called Audience Advocacy®—a viewpoint that asks you, the presenter, to be an advocate for your audience. Put yourself in their place and think about who they are and what they want. What are their hopes, fears, and passions? What do they know about you? What do they need to know in order to respond favorably to your message or cause, to act on your call to action?
Apply Audience Advocacy to every aspect of every presentation:
Story. Develop your content to provide what your audience needs not, as far too many presentations do, make your story a laundry list all about you, your company, or your product or service.
Slides. Design your deck to illustrate and support your story for your audience not, as common business practice has it, to attempt to be a standalone document of your story.
Questions. Answer whatever question your audience asks* not as former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara once counseled, “Never answer the question that is asked of you. Answer the question that you wish had been asked of you.”2
All these factors are a measure of how your presentation impacts your audience intellectually. Audience Advocacy also applies to how it impacts them interpersonally, to the physical delivery of your story via your body language and your voice. In this view, your audience’s perception of you widens from their minds to include how they react to you with their eyes, their ears, and, even more deeply, their guts. How do they feel about you?
Think of the presenter and the audience, the speaker and the listener, as the beginning and ending points of all interpersonal communications; think of the presenter as a transmitter and the audience as a receiver. The presenter transmits a set of human dynamics known as the three Vs:
Verbal. The story you tell
Vocal. Your voice, or how you tell your story
Visual. Your body language, or what you do when you tell your story—not your slides
Over the past few decades, a number of psychological, neurological, social, and semantic studies have measured the impact of these three dynamics with varying results—for good reason: different settings have different levels of their involvement, e.g., telephone conversations (no Visual), virtual meetings (constricted Visual), text (no Visual or Vocal), etc. However, all these scientific studies agree3 that the Visual, the nonverbal messages humans send to each other via body language, has the greatest impact. Ironically, the most impactful is the most challenging because of the Fight-or-Flight reaction. We’ll start with skills and exercises to show you how to control the adrenaline and also give equal emphasis to help you to manage and optimize the Vocal and Verbal dynamics. All three count.