I truly believe that the extent of your success is your good habits minus your bad ones — if we had to put it simply. The typical bad habits you might think of are habits like unhealthy eating, excessive drinking and smoking, etc. But the truth is that we’ve all got hundreds of different habits we are not even consciously aware of. The problem with this is that they affect every aspect of our lives! Are you getting in your own way without realizing?
Of course, it isn’t difficult to see how some of our habits affect our personal lives, but the fact that they actually play a huge role in your professional success isn’t initially as obvious. With entrepreneurship comes independence, and with that comes a lot of responsibility — without a boss to set the rules, deadlines, and consequences, you’re left more vulnerable than ever to letting your bad habits take over!
If you’re running your own business, or making preparations to, then trying to change your bad habits can seem like something that isn’t urgent and that can be dealt with later. Leaving your bad habits on the back-burner can have a huge impact on how successfully you get your work done and how effectively you manage your company. It’s because of this that getting a more in-depth understanding of your obstacles and how to deal with them is of the utmost importance.
Where do you start? Drop the traditional and somewhat boring exercises you can find online and start by distinguishing between goal-directed responses and context-cue responses. This distinction is crucial to your achievements as an entrepreneur.
The Intentional Mind Versus The Habitual Mind
In a study published in the Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin (2011) Neal, Wood, Wu, and Kurlander examined the battle between the intentional and habitual minds that exists in every one of us. At the beginning of the study, the participants were able to clearly distinguish between stale and fresh popcorn. Yet, when they were presented with popcorn in a movie theatre, those who habitually ate popcorn at the movies ate the popcorn whether it was fresh or not. In other words, the urge to comply with habit was stronger than the adverse reaction that the participants might have had from the stale popcorn.
What’s the “stale popcorn” in your life?
Can you think of any situations in which your habitual mind won over your intentional mind? If you’ve ever opted to browse through Facebook instead of getting all your work-related calls done or chosen to stay up late watching a movie instead of getting some sleep for an important meeting the next day, then you have.
If you set yourself some goals or have intentions and then you don’t rise to the challenge and instead give into your old habits, you are playing a win-lose game with yourself. Don’t say you want to be successful and then run away from the things that will make you more successful.
However, if you are setting intentions to change habits, you take action, and you still find it difficult to follow through, there may be conflicting goals which you are unaware of. It is because of these conflicting goals that action becomes difficult, so start by digging deeper into yourself to discover what’s really going on. We get in our own way without realizing when we do things in conflict with where we want to go in life. In business, you can risk doing this.
Ask yourself these questions:
How many intentions have you set and then not followed through on? Really, take a minute and reflect on it — from procrastinating to empty promises, everything. Get an average number per week of how often you do this.
How do you feel about yourself? Not so good I guess, so why keep doing it?
What would it take for you to throw away the “stale popcorn” in your life and tackle your less obvious but damaging habits?
Here is the truth
The more you listen to your weaker voice (habitual voice), the louder it will get and vice versa. So make the voice of intention louder and rise to the challenges you know will lead you to more success.
If you can’t even control your own habits, what makes you think you can run your own business?
It would seem really silly to undermine your success by ignoring the habits that might be sabotaging it. Warren Buffett has said that “Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” The earlier you get ahead of the potential problems that your habits can have for your business, the easier it will be for you to create a sustainable and much more pleasant road to success!
Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.
You have to work hard to develop the right skills
If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.
1. Make your presentation short and sweet
With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.
JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.
2. Open up with a good ice breaker
At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:
Tugging on their heart strings
Dropping a bombastic statement
Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons
You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.
3. Keep things simple and to the point
Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.
4. Use a healthy dose of humor
Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.
It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.
5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting
Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.
6. Practice your delivery
Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.
7. Move around and use your hands
Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.
8. Engage the audience by making them relate
Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.
9. Use funny images in your slides
Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.
10. End on a more serious note
When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”
As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.