Presentations and public speaking skills are not limited to certain special people, anyone can give a good presentation, or perform public speaking to a professional and impressive standard. This sounds quite simple, but have you ever been in a situation where this hasn’t happened? Misunderstanding and confusion often occur, and they can cause enormous problems. Like most things, it simply takes preparation and practice.
One of the good resources to learn more about public presentation skills is EffectiveSpeaking.co.nz, below is their latest newsletter about how they changed the behaviour of their presentation skills trainees.
As a special offer for World Business Capability Congress speakers Effective Speaking offers a 10% discount on fees on their next training sessions:
Wellington – 7 August 2012 and Auckland – 23 August, 2012.
People on our in-company courses weren’t putting in the work.
After the first day of our two day in-company course we suggest that participants take some time to prepare themselves for day two. This preparation allows them to maximise the learning they achieve on the second day.
We ask them to give up some of their time to design engaging content, create visual PowerPoint slides, and to rehearse their presentation at least two times.
Some people do this – they turn up with interesting slides and they’ve rehearsed and are familiar with their presentation. As a result, they really maximise the feedback, advice and coaching we give them.
But many people do nothing until the morning of the presentation. They throw some slides together before the course but don’t rehearse with them.
As a result, they don’t make the most of what we teach them and that can potentially spoil their experience of the course.
We wanted to change their behaviour. We wanted to persuade them to put in the work.
But these are busy people – they struggle to find the time to attend the course, let alone devote additional time for the extra work we were suggesting.
How would we persuade them? A lecture? A stern request? Pleading or begging?
We decided to try an experiment. We decided to tell a story.
We told them about Sue. She was a participant who was giving a talk about the safety of roads. After the first day, she searched for photographs of roads with and without safety hazards so that she could illustrate her points. She created slide animations which highlighted areas of the photographs she wanted us to notice. She even got her children to ride their bikes on a stretch of road and photographed them. She designed her content to be interactive – she used the photographs as a way to generate discussion during the presentation. And she rehearsed – she was familiar with her slides and the animations, and was able to hold our attention and stimulate our thinking during her presentation.
She nailed it!
Everyone was impressed with what she’d achieved, especially one of the participants who had delivered an embarrassingly clumsy and lacklustre talk. He asked her how she’d managed to find the time.
“I realized that on this course we were learning by doing”, she said “and that opportunities like this don’t come along everyday. I wanted to make the most of the course and made a few sacrifices to do that. And given the response I’ve got, I’m glad that I did.”
That was the story. We told it at the end of the first day and it was the only change that we made to the instructions we’d normally give participants.
Seven days later they were back for day two and we immediately noticed an improvement. More people had put in more work. When we mentioned the effort that people had made, one of the participants commented:
“You told us that we needed to put in the work. You said it was important. I didn’t want to embarrass myself.”
Actually, we hadn’t said that – we had just told a story. But what he had HEARD – what he took out of the story, was exactly what we wanted to get across.
Stories are powerful tools of persuasion and influence.
Why do they work?
Audiences are less resistant to stories. Try to convince them with logic and rational argument and you stimulate the part of the brain that judges and evaluates – the part of the brain that is skeptical and comes up with reasons why “your argument doesn’t apply to me.”
But stories are a different pathway into the brain.
Like a piece of art, they allow the listener to create their own meaning from what they see in front of them. They take out of the story what is relevant for them – they’re more likely to see connections than barriers.
So our experiment worked.
Will storytelling work for you? Why not try it in your next meeting or presentation or conversation.
If you’ve been unsuccessfully trying to influence behaviour and you can measure your results, conduct your own experiment. Tell a story.
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