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Presentation Masterclass – Part 1: Introduction

Presentation Masterclass – Part 1: Introduction

I have been observing, delivering and training people in presentation techniques for over 20 years now and my considered, professional, opinion on the subject is this:

MOST PRESENTATIONS SUUUUUUUUCK!

In almost every sphere of human endeavour, the outcome can be plotted on a bell-curve – a few really skilled people over on the right, a few really hopeless people over on the left and a whole bunch or just-above or just-below average people in the middle:

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    I suspect that the curve for presentations looks more like this:

      Why?

      Seriously. Why?

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      How hard could this be? You get someone who knows what they are talking about standing up in front of a audience, with a bunch of visual aids to make the job of imparting information easier, and they impart the information. How hard could that be?

      I have been involved with presentation at a professional level for over 20 years. If I include my earliest experiences with presentations – people teaching me stuff in primary school – then the figure is closer to 40 years. And the vast majority of them were dreadful. Teachers, coaches, lecturers, tutors, trainers, consultants – most of them suuuuuuuuuuuucked!

      Think back. Put aside all your experiences in the world of work for a moment and just think back to your schooldays. How many exceptional teachers did you have in your 14 years of primary and secondary schooling? I had four excellent teachers in primary school and three in secondary, out of a total about 80 people who taught me various subjects between the ages of 4 and 17. Now, for our normal distribution bell curve, 7 out of 80 is about right, but it still sucks when you have to sit through it. And that’s before I even got to college, much less the world of work with all of its woeful presenters. Why does this happen? By dint of the fact that the person is up at the front of the room with the slides flickering behind him or her, they must be some kind of expert on their topic, whether that topic is the 3Rs in primary school or Web 2.0 marketing. So their expertise in the topic is rarely the problem.

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      I have gradually come to the realisation that the biggest problem with presentations is that human beings are simply too self-involved for the process to work well. Presenters are so wrapped up in themselves and their topic that they rarely seem to take a moment to consider what would be the best method for imparting this information to their audience. Audiences are so deluged with advertising messages and radio jingles, with phone calls, voicemail, email, SMS and IM, with… stuff in their personal lives that unless you, the presenter, are wowing them with every word, you will lose their attention in a matter of seconds.

      Add to that the fact that the bar has been lowered to such an extent that most audiences are resigned to expecting dull, rambling, semi-legible, bullet-point-ridden presentations, and it’s not hard to see how we have arrived at this low ebb in communication.Both sides are at fault, to be sure; but if you are scheduled to make a presentation soon, you can control only one side of the conversation. Exercise that control. You have no say regarding the audience’s mood or willingness to listen, but you control your presentation, and in this series of posts, I will provide you with the knowledge, tools and approach to maximise your chance of success.

      The deepest human need is the need to be appreciated. (William James)

      The psychologist and philosopher William James said, “The deepest human need is the need to be appreciated.” If your presentation is going to have any chance of success, it needs to be built on this understanding. As a starting point, I recommend some detox to clear your body and mind from a lifetime of exposure to sucky presentations. I strongly recommend that you expose yourself to some great presenters:

      • Check out Seth Godin, Tom Peters, Guy Kawasaki, Steve Jobs, and Dick Hardt on YouTube.
      • Have a look at some of the wizards on TED.com – Rives, Hans Rosling, Barnett Thomas, Lawrence Lessig and Ken Robinson all stand out, but there are reams more on this invaluable resource.
      • Go over to Common Craft and have a look at their ‘plain English’ tutorials on aspects of Web 2.0

      The one common theme that emerges from this tremendous diversity of presenters, topics and styles is RESPECT. By every word and deed, they demonstrate absolute respect for both their audiences and themselves.

      A good starting point. The essential starting point.

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      Next: Planning your presentation.

      More by this author

      5 Key Questions When Planning Your Presentation (Presentation Masterclass – Part 2) Presentation Masterclass – Part 1: Introduction Guy Kawasaki’s Thoughts on Online Life Where am I going? Putting your life in context. Communication 101

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      Last Updated on January 15, 2019

      What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

      What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

      When I wrote my book Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide, I was surprised at the various layers of review and editing necessary to get the book to publication. Before I ever submitted the manuscript, I enlisted a former colleague to read and copy edit my work. Then, I submitted my work to an editor at the publisher’s house, and once she approved it, she sent it to her colleagues and then her company’s editorial board.

      Upon editorial board approval of my book, my editor sent my work to reviewers in my field, then a developmental editor, then a designer and layout team and, finally, another copy editor. There were a host of personalities with whom I needed to interact along the way.

      It turns out that getting a publishing contract was just the beginning – a lot happens between developing a concept, writing the book, finding an agent and publisher, and getting the book on bookshelves or on Audible or Kindle. Through every milestone of the publishing process, my ability to interact with others was crucial. This underscored for me that no matter what or how much a person accomplishes, you never do it alone – everyone needs assistance from others.

      While I conceived of the book and wrote the manuscript, there is no way my book could have hit booksellers’ shelves without the dozens of people who were involved in the publishing process. Further, interpersonal skills can propel or stonewall success.

      Even as someone who has written hundreds of essays, press releases, pitch notes and other correspondence, writing itself is not a solitary endeavor. Sure, I may write in solitude, but the moment I am finished writing, there are always clients, colleagues, partners, peers and others who review my content.

      What is more, even as a published author and contributor for this platform, I try to never submit final copy (content) that has not been copy edited. I send everything to my copy editor, whom I pay out of my own pocket, for her review, edits and approval. Once she has reviewed my work, caught unbeknownst-to-me errors, I am much more confident putting my work out in the world.

      How Interpersonal Skills Affect Relationships

      It is clearer to me now more than ever before that interpersonal skills are needed in every profession and every trade.

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      People don’t elect leaders because the leaders are smart. Individuals are motivated to vote when they have a hero and when they feel they have something to lose. If they seriously dislike the other candidate, they are much more likely vote according to a 2000 Ohio State University study:

      “A disliked candidate is seen as a threat, and that will be motivation to go to the polls. But a threat alone isn’t enough – people need to have a hero to vote for, too, in order to inspire them to turn out on Election Day.”

      In a work setting, interpersonal skills impact every facet of your development and success. Trainers must collaborate with a design team or the company hiring them to facilitate the training. During the training itself, the facilitators must connect with the audience and establish a rapport that supports vulnerability and openness. If the trainers interact poorly with the trainees, they are unlikely to be invited back. If they are invited back, they may be unlikely to inspire cooperation or growth in their trainees.

      Solopreneurs interactions with clients and subcontractors, and those interactions will, in part, support or adversely impact their business. If you enjoy a career as an acclaimed surgeon or respected lawyer, your interactions with patients, clients, health insurance agencies and a team of other practitioners – many of whom are shielded from public view – will improve or decimate your practice.

      As a hiring manager, one of the things I consider when interviewing candidates is their interpersonal skills. I assess the interpersonal skills they display in their content and face-to-face presentation. I ask probing questions to learn how they interact with others, manage conflict and contribute to a team atmosphere.

      When candidates say things like, “I prefer to work alone” or “I can hit the ground running without assistance,” I bristle. When candidates appear to know everything and everyone, I wonder if they will be receptive to learning or open to feedback. Could these statements be indications that these individuals lack interpersonal skills?

      It stands to reason, then, that interpersonal skills are among the most valuable and the bedrock of all talents and skills.

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      What are Interpersonal Skills?

      Interpersonal skills range from emotional intelligence, empathy, oral and written communication to leadership to collaboration and teamwork.

      In sum, interpersonal skills are skills that enable you to interact well with others. They include teachability and receptiveness to feedback, active or mindful listening, self-confidence and conflict resolution.

      From a communications standpoint, interpersonal skills are about understanding how colleagues prefer to communicate and then using the appropriate mediums to meet respective needs. It is about understanding how to communicate in a way to get the most out of different people.

      For instance, in my career as a public relations practitioner, part of what I am constantly evaluating is which colleagues, clients and members of the media prefer email, text or phone calls. I am assessing how much frill to use with each person depending on what has worked in the past and depending on what I know about the person with whom I am interacting.

      Making these decisions and being disciplined enough to follow each person’s known preferences helps me better connect with the various individuals in my orbit. Is this tiring at times? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

      How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

      There are tons of resources to teach interpersonal skills. I love books such as Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

      There are also a host of books and articles on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage one’s emotions and perceive and adapt to others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is likewise a critical component of positive interpersonal relations. You can learn more about it in this article: What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why It Is Important

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      Active and mindful listening also support improved interpersonal skills. I recommend you take a look at this piece: Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

      I have further found that humility helps a ton with interpersonal skills. It takes humility to admit you have more to learn and that you can learn from the people around you. In fact, everyone with whom you interact has a lesson to teach you. And employers are increasingly looking for team members who are lifelong learners, meaning they believe there is always room for growth and professional and personal development.

      Forbes contributor Kevin H. Johnson noted in a July 2018 article,

      “That’s why, when anyone asks what the next ‘hot’ skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.”

      Don’t overlook introspection.

      While interpersonal skills may seem simple enough, introspection is critical to learning where and in what ways you need to grow.

      Through introspection and observation, I have learned that my interpersonal skills suffer when I am sleep deprived, because then I am short-tempered and irritable. I’ve observed this connection over a significant period in my life. Unsurprisingly, it is also true of others. Fellow LifeHack contributor, health coach and personal trainer Jamie Logie noted:

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      When you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including anxiety, headaches and dizziness, weight gain, depression, stroke, hypertension, digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, irritability.

      Additionally, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported,

      “Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers; and depression. Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”

      The point is, even as you are identifying ways to improve interpersonal skills, think about what is getting in the way. While sleep deprivation is a trigger for me, your stumbling block may be different.

      The Bottom Line

      You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. Even as you work to understand and apply interpersonal skills, spend some time in mindful meditation to get clear on what is holding you back from developing solid relationships.

      Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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