A Lesser Presenter

When I was learning photography from Ben Long, he mentioned a book called “A Lesser Photographer.” It is a great book. And it is subtitled “Escape the Gear Trap to Focus on What Matters.” The main idea is that you should focus on if you have the latest and great in photography gear, but to work on your photographic eye and other related skills. It is a good piece of advice for photographers and presenters. It can also be a bad piece of advice.

When I say it is good, I mean that for beginning photographers it is important to learn the basic of framing, shapes, light, etc. A really expensive camera cannot cover those inadequacies of skills in those areas. On the other hand, in the hands of real pro an expensive and powerful camera can make life a lot easier, the work quicker, etc. The gear can matter. Sometimes a lot.

But, what does this have to do with presenting?

I like many of you have spent a lot of time learning the latest tips, tactics, and techniques for being a good speaker. I feel that these kinds of things are equivalent to the “gear” in photography. We all want to learn the next shiny technique. It can be using a chair, asking some kind of provocative question, or starting off with a song. We all want the one thing that will wow our audience. Except that it doesn`t work that way.

Gear will not a bad photographer better. And mastering one killer technique will not make you a world class speaker either. I have known so many people who have tried to mimic a technique or two of the masters only to later complain that it did work on this or that audience.

I find that the problem is not so much in the gear or the technique but on a more fundamental level. Most people do not think about the “Way” of doing a presentation. To their credit most books are a series of tip, tactics, and techniques. I even subscribe to Craig Valentine`s newsletter who gave me 42. But a presentation is more than 42 techniques to awe an audience. It is about effectively communicating a message that changes the audience for the better.

That sounds like a bit of fluffy nonsense, and it can be it there is no structure. For me an effective speaker that can change the audience for the better is skilled in five areas. You might think that these would something like this:

A.      Vocal Variety

B.      Body Language

C.      Use of Visual Aids

D.      Rhetoric

E.      Composition

Except this would be like saying that karate is all about chops, blocks, and kicks. It is not.  Karate it more a “Way” of thinking and living. Presentation can the same way.

The way I look at it Presentation can truly be broken down in five basic elements:

1.      Health and Mental Wellness

2.      Objectives & Goals

3.      Connection with Audience

4.      Message & Content

5.      Technique

If you noticed A-D fit in #4 and E fits in #4or you could put in in #5 depending on your interpretation. You are also probably wondering why in the world “Heath & Mental Wellness” is even in this frame work.

Most of you are probably familiar with nervousness. Your heart races, your palms sweat. You get that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach. It is such an awful feeling that many people try to avoid it as possible. Some who know they cannot avoid it search for the magic pill or technique that will cure that problem. These do exist. However, most do not work because they do not properly address the fundament reason nervous occurs in the first place.  

Anyways nervousness or even worse stage fright, can be a big problem for speaker. It will not matter if you master all the great power point techniques of Steve Jobs if you cannot muster the confidence of Steve Jobs on stage.

It also is important that you have good control of your health. Catching a cold the day before, can ruin your talk.  Having runny nose, a slight headache, and even worse headache is just asking for trouble. You may be able to power your way through it but, your audient will be able to tell. Usually the mounds of tissues give it away

So, have good health, lots of energy and the mental strength is the cornerstone of delivering a powerful presentation. It is also a fundament part of any “Way” of Presenting.

Then comes “Objectives & Goals.”  These are not just for projects., job reviews, or big corporation creating this year`s OKRs. I feel that thinking about your objectives and goals is very important part of presetting.

One does not simply give a speech, just to give a speech. A speech is given to create some kind of effect. Sometimes, you want to entertain someone.  Sometimes, you want to get a point across. Sometimes, you want to persuade. Sometimes, you want to motivate.  Sometimes you want to do a combination of those.

Depending on what you want to do in your speech, a lot in the organization, wording etc. will greatly change. A entertaining speech may simply following some general “Hero`s Journey” or persuading speech may use the PAS (Problem-Agitate-Solve) framework. What is the best way to arrange your speech depends on your objectives.

But, I also think that thinking only of the objectives of one particular speech may be too narrow.

You may want to consider what is your life`s mission as speaker. For example, I often feel that many people in Japan have great ideas, great products, and even great ways of living, but many of those things tend to be stuck in one small area of Japan. I feel that is “Mottainai!” I feel that the world would be better if Japanese people and other people around the world were able to more effective share and communication to others outside of their country.

This kind of thinking would shape what kind of speech topics I would choose, what audience I would generally target and also how I think about the before and after of my audience.

This is just the tip of the iceberg there is much more to this kind of thinking. But I will stop for a bit to give your time to think about it.