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We’ve all had bored trainers. They bore us through their lack of passion, of energy, of spark.
But what happens when YOU have delivered the same training over and over and over again? Is it possible to remain passionate about the same subject you have been teaching for years? How do you keep it fresh?
OK, here’s my story. I have delivered versions of a popular workshop for fifteen years. Yes, I alter the subject matter and customize it for each client. But—and I’m going to be honest here—sometimes I feel like I’m just “going through the motions.” I hear myself saying the same line that I have said at least five hundred times. And I wilt a little inside.
Now, I realize that my participants are hearing everything for the first time. Because I am naturally energetic, they listen and respond with enthusiasm. But to be honest, I sometimes feel like a robot. Has that ever happened to you?
I’m going to share five tips I use to refresh myself as a trainer. Please send me YOUR suggestions—I’ll share these in the next newsletter.
5 Tips That Refresh!
1. Remember the “Turf” That Comes With Being a Professional
The ability to perform at the same expert level time after time simply comes with the territory of being a professional-whether you are an athlete, an actor, a tour guide, or a trainer. Being a professional means you “give it your all” each time you perform. That’s what separates you from the rest of the crowd.
2. Re-Arrange the Order of Things
Although doing this may feel risky when things are working just fine as they are, rearranging your content can provide the biggest refreshment of all. Try presenting a content block either earlier or later than usual. You’ll be amazed at the freshness you feel!
3. Initiate and Enjoy Interaction
Each group is different, and projects and reflects energy differently than the last group. Have fun with that! Meet and “hob-nob” with individuals before the training and during the breaks. Listen for any unique words or concerns. Notice these and, where possible, integrate them into your delivery. Be sure to ask plenty of questions.
4. Increase Your Self Awareness in New Areas
Knowing your content as intimately as you do is a luxury. It provides the opportunity to tune into how you are delivering it. Are you making enough eye contact (or too much)? How is your voice projection? Are you pacing? Are you slouching? Don’t allow your delivery go on auto-pilot, but do try seeing and hearing yourself as an observer would.
5. Feel Lucky and Blessed
How many of us get to do jobs that involve such a high level of physical, emotional, and mental exercise all at once? From a purely selfish standpoint, what a great way to keep your brain young! Additionally, you are transmitting information that helps your participants. You are “doing good” in the world! How many people can really say that?
I hope these five tips help you keep your training fresh—not only for your participants, but for YOU, too.
I have discovered that my clients all love a good hook, and are always looking for new ones. Let’s review what a Hook is and isn’t. Then I’ll provide two dynamic Hooks for you to use in your next presentation or training session.
What a Hook ISN’T:
Fluff. Never make the mistake of thinking that a hook is unimportant and can be left out. It is an essential part of the learning experience.
Lengthy. A hook is typically not a full-blown exercise, energizer or icebreaker.
A pre-test. Don’t use a hook to identify the “smartest guys in the room.”
A way to fill those nervous first moments of a training session when you feel least confident. A hook has a definite role. Don’t waste the precious first moments of a training session with comments about the weather or unrelated issues.
What a Hook IS:
- A way to immediately engage your listeners.
- Relatively short. Although there is no actual rule about length, the hook should serve its purpose concisely.
- Connected to the session’s topic or purpose. Although anything can serve as a hook, it should have a relationship to your session’s purpose. Don’t lob out a meaningless joke just to get laughs.
- Connected to who your participants are. You must know your audience’s concerns. The best hooks relate to their past experiences.
- Emotional, even if only mildly so. Adults become engaged through their emotions. Good hooks incite almost any kind of emotion, including laughter, groans of recognition, anxiety, or excitement.
- Inclusive. Use a hook that all the participants can relate to. Again, the best hooks elicit the past knowledge, emotions, and/or experiences of most people in your audience.
Developing a hook takes careful preparation. However, your participants’ immediate interest and involvement is on the line, so a little preparation on your part is worth the effort.
Two Dynamite Hooks
You can use literally anything as a hook. Trainers have used visual aids such as short videos or toys from the local Dollar store. They have used riddles, music, anecdotes, yoga stretches, and many more ways to immediately engage their participants.
The two Hooks I’ve outlined here have proven to work with a bang every time.
1. Real-life Questions
These may be the easiest type of hook to create. As for all hooks, make sure you know enough about your audience to use topics that resonate. Also, as in all hooks, ensure that your questions elicit an emotional response.
See if you can guess the topics for these Hooks:
“How many of you get so frustrated with your computer sometimes that you’d like to put your fist right through that screen?”
“Raise your hands if you’ve ever participated in a nightmare meeting.”
“Raise your hands if you’ve ever hit your boiling point around kids—even if you don’t have any!”
- Always ask a minimum of two questions. You need this many to get your participants’ brains moving in the direction of your training session.
- Create your questions so that nearly everyone will respond in the same way (for example, 99% of hands in the room go up or down.)
- Insist on a physical response (hands up, stand up, thumbs up, etc.)
Start your questions with the following:
“How many of you would NOT be willing to…(Remember, your goal is to get everyone’s hands up. Asking in the negative may be more provocative and participatory than asking in the positive.)
2. “Did You Know?” (Provocative Fact or Statistic)
The world is full of provocative statistics you can use to hook your participants. Just keep your eyes out as you read blogs, newspapers and articles. You can usually make the most unrelated statistic relevant to your participants.
See how one trainer brought together issues as diverse as strawberries and personal choices:
“Did you know…that Delta Airlines recently saved $210,000 a year simply by removing one strawberry from salads served in First Class? One little strawberry was removed and passengers didn’t even notice it. Big results can be achieved by little changes. Today, we’ll talk about how little changes in your thoughts and attitudes can have big results in your own life.”
Here are two other examples, used in actual classes:
1. “Did you know that in one second…
- A telephone signal can travel 100,000 miles?
- A hummingbird beats its wings 70 times?
- And guess what, in one second, eight million of your blood cells die.
A lot can happen in one second. This session will give you tools to decrease your response time in household emergencies.”
2. “Did you know that ‘Generation X’rs’ have watched 23,000 hours of television by the time they are 20 years old? They also believe they have a better chance of seeing a UFO in their lifetime than a Social Security check. In this workshop, we’ll see how generational differences in the workplace affect all of us.”
3. “Before the rule, more than 50 people here were dying in trenches every year. When you get killed in a cave-in, it’s not an easy way to go. You’re literally crushed to death under the weight of the soil. Soil weighs approximately 3,000 pounds per cubic yard. Nobody deserves to go to work and die that way.”
- Turn a provocative fact into a hook simply by prefacing it with the words “did you know?”
- Make sure your data is correct.
- Make sure to integrate emotion.
- Consider combining your fact or statistic with another hook, such as a Real-life question.
Always use a Hook if you are serious about immediate engagement and interest!
What’s the difference between presenting and training? Think about it. Presentations are usually delivered one way, from speaker to audience. Their primary role is to deliver information.
Training sessions, on the other hand, not only build skills, but are interactive. Participants do things in training. They talk to each other and to the trainer. They engage their minds and bodies. They are no longer passive recipients of information.
To spruce up your presentations, try using a hybrid model. Inject training techniques to bring your presentations alive.
5 Ways to Make Your Presentations More Interactive
- Preface your presentation by briefly stating a relevant problem. Ask participants to be ready to solve the problem by the session’s end based on what they’ve learned.
- Distribute a list of questions for participants to answer as you present. (By directing participants to listen and search for information covered, you actively engage their attention.)
- Ask a relevant question and make it clear you expect the participants to think about it; then have them share their responses with one other person. (Optional: then elicit few of those responses.)
- Interrupt yourself periodically and challenge participants to give examples of the concepts presented thus far or to answer “spot-quiz” questions.
- Provide a “quickie” self-test either before, during or after the session.
These techniques shift several responsibilities onto the audience, where they belong:
-the responsibility to learn
-the responsibility to engage, and
-the responsibility to remember.
However, your responsibilities as a speaker shift a bit, too. You must move from spraying audience members down with an “information hose” to having more of a dialogue. Be sure to let your audience know what you expect of them before introducing each technique. And don’t let them slide back down into passivity—keep them awake and involved!
Is it true that men tend to make certain types of blunders while presenting, and women others? In my experience, yes. I have worked with hundreds of individuals and single-sex groups, and notice recurring, gender-specific behaviors that sabotage presentations.
In the interest of advancing further research, I submit these very common blunders, and give you the tools you need to prevent them.
Most Common Presentation Skills Blunders: MEN
1. Guys, you wander aimlessly too much. Move with purpose ONLY. Pacing or shuffling weaken your delivery and your message.
The best reasons to move are:
- When you are changing a subject.
- When you are changing an emotion.
- When you’ve been in one place for the entire time.
Stand and deliver, then move.
2. Get those thumbs out of your pockets or your waistband. This posture is called “genital framing.” Do you really want to express “check me out, I am a virile male” during a high-stakes financial talk? (Or maybe you do…What do I know?)
Instead, use your hands and arms in a natural way to emphasize your words. You can even just let your arms hang down at your sides (now that feels weird, doesn’t it?) Just don’t tuck your hands away…anywhere.
Most Common Presentation Skills Blunders: WOMEN
1. Read the following. Is Mary credible?
“Hello. My name is Mary Smith? I am the communications director? And I’ve worked here 15 years?”
I’ll bet your answer is NO. Mary just sabotaged herself, big-time. Even if she is most credible person in the company, she now has to earn back the credibility she lost through the upward inflection at the end of her sentences.
Professor Yia Hei Kao of Claremont University is just one of many researchers and linguists who have found that when women end their sentences with an upward lilt, they project uncertainty, tentativeness, and the desire to please others.
Women, is THAT how you want to come across? We no longer need permission to speak, so why act as if we do?
Practice introducing yourself. Listen for the upward swing at the end of the sentences. Enlist someone else to help if you are not sure what you’re hearing. End your sentences with a downward inflection. This “fix” is one of the most important things you can do to increase your credibility as a speaker.
2. Stand evenly on both feet. Don’t heap your weight onto one hip. This “cheerleader” stance makes you look like you’re posing for a photo shoot. To come across as grounded and powerful, BE grounded from the floor up.
OK, men and women. I hope these tips help you. Share them with those of the same and the opposite gender. Let’s all work towards a world full of improved presentations!
The actual answer to this question, based upon many studies and years of research, is “it depends.”
How Smiling Helps
The act of smiling changes ourfor the better. An authentic smile can:
- Boost mood and confidence by increasing serotonin, norepinephrine and endorphins.
- Lower , and
- Reduce anxiety.
Theseobviously benefit .
An authentic smile also makes other people feel good. Anthat feels good makes our job as presenters easier. In fact, when people see a smile, the reward centers of their brains turns on, making them . Who doesn’t want a happy audience?
So what could possibly be the down side of smiling?
How Smiling Hurts
Among primates, smiling means submission, “I am not a threat.” We humans still read smiling this way. Oversmiling makes you appear less confident and more desirous of approval. (NOT how you want to be perceived as a presenter!)
Most studies find that in general, women smile more than men. In fact, research involving nearly 110,000 people found that smiling is females’ default option. Audiences may perceive a constantly smiling female presenter as less competent and knowledgeable than a less-smiling female or a male. But males can oversmile, too.
To Smile or Not to Smile?
Here’s how I would answer that question. Before presenting, prepare yourself:
1. Pump up your enjoyment level. Tell yourself, “I will enjoy this,” or “I feel great,” or “the audience is my friend.” Allow yourself to feel positive.
2. Feel an authentic smile engendered by positive thoughts. Feeling 100% present, smile as you introduce yourself and take ownership of the presentation space.
3. Gradually and naturally, let your introductory (and authentic) smile fade as you get further into the material.
4. Be willing to smile and laugh naturally throughout your presentation. Always smile when welcoming people back from a break.
The bottom line is, as usual: Be yourself, with an addendum: Watch your smiles!
All effective presentations change the ways people think or act. Think about it—even if you are “just” presenting data, you’re doing it for a reason. You want people to use the data to change something!
Every effective presentation persuades the listener. Certain words persuade people more effectively than others.
Going back to 1963, expert speakers have identified these twelve words as the most persuasive in the English language. Try using one or two in your next presentation, and watch for changes in how people react to your message.
1. You: Personalize your speech so that your listeners feel you are talking directly to them. (Example: Ask, “What does this mean to you?” and stick in a benefit.)
2. Discovery: What an exciting and enthusiastic feeling from childhood this conjures!
3. Easy: Your audience wants more ease in their busy lives. What can you offer?
4. Guarantee: Remove the feeling of risk. Make people feel safe. (Which brings us to:)
5. Safety: This word conjures comfort and eases people’s fears.
6. Save: Everyone loves to save money and time. Make the most of this word!
7. Health: Your listeners gravitate toward self-preservation. See if you can make a connection to your topic.
8. Love: Don’t overuse it. It’s one of the most powerful words when you know what your audience loves the most (Family? Security? Safety? Income?)
9. New: Freshness, innovation, change…people like new “stuff.”
10. Proven: The opposite of ‘new,’ this word ensures us that we are not taking risks. Be sure to back this one with data.
11. Results: What people will get, how they will benefit. Very powerful!
12. Free: Don’t forget the different definitions of this word: not only free of charge, but also freedom of movement and choice. This word gives the hope of liberation and expansion.
ALL these words involve emotion. Don’t be afraid to use them, as emotion is the key to persuasiveness.
Are you serious about wanting to increase your dynamism, power and energy as a speaker? Then you must stand up when you present.
Andy Eklund, a presentation skills expert, tells us:
“The vast majority of people are at least 50% less dynamic when sitting down, because their body movements are halved … and perhaps as much as 75% because everything else is restricted too. It’s more difficult to breath properly, which means it’s harder to project your voice. Hand gestures diminish, if not disappear. Eye contact disappears too because the person tends to read what’s in front of them.”
I want you to stand when you present because I want you to be powerful. I’m providing my favorite mottos and metaphors to help you remember to stand tall. Note: Please stand up NOW to try them out—you’ll find a favorite to use the next time you present.
*Imagine that your vertebrae are separated by small pockets of air.*
*Roll your shoulders “into your back pockets.”* (This opens your chest.)
*Imagine a string attached to the crown of your head, gently pulling it up while your chin relaxes downwards.* (Don’t lead with your chin.)
*Lengthen your neck and all else will follow.*
*Create “cleavage” in your back, between your shoulder blades.* (woo-hoo!)
*Point your chest to the place across the room where the wall meets the ceiling.*
*Simply think “UP.”*
Remember-it’s not about rigidity, it’s about grace, strength and power as a presenter.
How does leadership look and sound? Adam Bryan distills thousands of years of leadership experience of successful CEOs in his new book, “The Corner Office.” Practice the following phrases in your workplace. Soon, you’ll feel comfortable practicing the underlying behavior as well.
1. Passionate Curiosity
What it looks like: Engagement with the world, relentless questioning of the status quo. What it might sound like:
- “Why does it work this way?”
- “What are people’s stories?”
- “What’s the big picture?”
2. Battle-Hardened Confidence
What it looks like: A track record of overcoming adversity. What it might sound like:
- “I don’t blame others.”
- “I have the ability to shape events and circumstances.”
- “I don’t quit.”
3. Team Smarts
What it looks like: A highly-honed understanding of people and group dynamics. What it might sound like:
- “_____ has an important point. Let’s listen to him/her.”
- “What do we need to change to work together better?”
- “I’m sensing discomfort. Let’s talk about what’s happening here.”
4. Simple Mind-Set
What it looks like: Speaking concisely; the ability to ‘connect the dots.’ What it might sound like:
- “Let’s cut to the chase.”
- “Here is the core point.”
What it looks like: Comfortable being uncomfortable. What it might sound like:
- “This is an opportunity.”
- “I’m willing to take a chance here.”
- “I’m hungry for change and can manage it.”
All five of these characteristics can be developed through attitude, habit and discipline. If you are an emerging leader, practice the mind-set of these phrases. Soon, you’ll feel comfortable practicing the underlying behavior as well!
To ensure a successful presentation every time, presenters should start by developing a clear, concise purpose statement. The purpose statement serves two important roles. It helps keep you focused and on track as you develop the presentation. It also helps your audience focused on your message from the get-go.
Before you present: Clarifying the purpose helps you avoid a data-dump. You will design your presentation with a focused viewpoint and avoid excess content. Because you are designing more efficiently, you save tons of time and energy.
As you present: By stating your presentation’s purpose in the first few minutes, you shape your audience’s expectations. You also make an overt commitment to achieving that purpose. This adds to your credibility as a speaker.
Here are a couple of examples:
- “The purpose of my presentation is to inform you of the new changes in our contract.”
- “My purpose today is to introduce the preliminary findings of our report.”
- “Today I will show you the 5 benefits of our new venture.”
Why Don’t More Presenters Do This?
I have three big guesses as to why more presenters don’t develop and use a clear, concise purpose statement.
1. The lure of PowerPoint. Even though using PowerPoint to organize a presentation almost guarantees a data dump-style presentation, many presenters have grown up thinking this is the only way.
I have nothing against using PowerPoint as a tool once you have clarified the presentation purpose. In fact, I suggest putting your purpose statement on the very first PowerPoint slide!
2. The belief that the audience already knows what you are going to say. Your audience may know the fuzzy parameters of your speech. It’s your job to shape their expectations toward what you want to say.
3. Ignorance. Many presenters simply have never considered the importance of using a presentation purpose statement to guide their process.
Where to Start
The best way to develop your purpose statement is to start with this bare-bones template:
“The purpose of my presentation is to:
(2) audience (you can say “you” here)
Examples #1 and #2 above follow this template. Example #3 throws in a little “what’s in it for you” statement. All are effective.
My Challenge to You
Try it out! Create a purpose statement for your very next presentation. If you already have a presentation that lacks a purpose statement, develop one NOW and use it the next time you present.
You will find yourself and your audience more focused on the message. Let me know how it goes!
I was excited to find John Medina’s great book, Brain Rules, in the San Francisco airport bookstore in 2009. The book is incredibly readable and valuable to trainers and presenters. I was thrilled most of all to see that Medina provides research to support 3 rules I’ve shared in my Train the Trainer classes for years.
1. Provide the gist, the core concept, first.
Verbalize and show your session’s purpose within the first few minutes of your presentation or training. Medina claims that you will see a 40% improvement in understanding if you provide general concepts first.
2. Give an overview of the class at the beginning, and sprinkle liberal repetitions of ‘where we are now’ throughout.
Provide clear transitions and summaries throughout your session. Clearly and repetitively explain linkages.
3. Bait the hook.
Every ten minutes, Medina gives his audiences a break from the firehose of information by sending “emotionally competent stimuli” (yet another word for ‘hook.’) A hook can be a surprising fact, anecdote, or question, and must must trigger an emotion: anxiety, laughter, nostalgia, etc. It must also be relevant. Use hooks at the beginning of each module.
Research suggests that by using these skills, you will prevent your audiences from “checking out” during your presentation. Not only that, but these 3 tips will enable you to enjoy presenting more. Have fun!