June 10, 2008

Tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em. . .?



We've all heard this advice: Tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em; tell 'em; tell 'em what you told 'em. (After reading and writing that several times, I'm not sure that's really English any more.)

The problem with this advice is that it's simplistic. It's also boring.

On the one hand, this is a classic way to structure a presentation. On the other hand, if you really step onto the podium and "tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em," you are going to put your audience to sleep rather than energize them.

The flaw in this advice is in the first piece: Tell 'em. Because it's simplistic, many speakers take it too literally. They stand up and spend the first couple of minutes (if not sharing their lengthy bio and explaining why they are the perfect presenter to be sharing their infinite wisdom with you) outlining the presentation. Or they put a PowerPoint slide of an agenda on the screen. Snooze.

Instead, before the "telling," should be the "engaging." An opening that evokes some kind of emotion in your audience should always come before the telling. In fact, a strong opening can transition more smoothly into your introduction and give it additional interest. Here's an example:
"In 1990, I was hit head-on by a car while driving my scooter. I wasn't wearing a helmet; my head and the car's front end met in the middle of a busy intersection. I was lucky that nothing was broken and that I didn't suffer a more severe head injury. Recovery was slow, and soon after the accident I started having panic attacks.

I couldn't sit in a crowded restaurant. I couldn't tolerate the middle seat at the movie theater. Elevators made me anxious, and my biggest fear was sitting inside an airplane for ten hours. With a trip to Europe already planned, this was going to happen, whether I liked it or not.

I went to a therapist who specialized in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She taught me breathing, visualization and relaxation techniques. I started to find myself reversing the panic attacks. If I felt one coming on, I could close my eyes, visualize a calming scene, breathe deeply, and conquer the anxiety. It was a powerful tool.

However, I realized that I could also CREATE a panic attack, just by thinking of the trigger. So now, I could sit in the middle seat at the movie theater, but I would start worrying, 'What if I have a panic attack?' By letting the idea get comfortable in my mind, I could create the panic attack out of thin air. Now I had the tools to combat the attack, and I also had the tools to create one from scratch.

Your mind is extremely powerful. It creates fear where there is none. However, you can control the fear and anxiety you experience around public speaking. You have the power to turn negative and fearful thoughts into positive ones. Today we're going to talk about how to do that."

You can still "tell 'em." Just "engage 'em" first. Tie your opening story, quote, question or statistic into your introduction, and you've just found a way to keep your audience on the edge of their seats rather than struggling to keep their eyes open.

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Are you an entrepreneur or professional who's looking for better results from your speaking? Are you hoping to build credibility and visibility for your business or cause? Tired of just "getting by" and ready to deliver truly engaging and powerful presentations? Click here to fill out my consultation questionnaire and we'll schedule a time to talk!

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