Communication. In my mind, it pretty much encompasses everything. But it takes different forms. Art, movies, music, design, writing, public speaking, and, of course, conversation.
Did you know that we can develop more creative and impactful presentations when we stop viewing presentations as just speeches? Instead, we should broaden our perspectives and get curious about how we can bring the power of other communicative art forms into our presentations.
Today, we’ll look at 3 elements of conversation that we can bring into our presentations to help shake off the cookie-cutter mold of “public speaking.” When we embrace the warmth, variety, and interaction of conversation, we can create presentations with new energy and life.
The warmth of conversation is tied up in the connection between the communicators. It’s an unspoken, intangible thing, but you know when it’s there and you know when it’s not. Think about how we refer to situations where conversational warmth is missing. We might say things like, “I got a chilly reception” or “she was cold.” Conversational warmth boils down to having positive feelings about the interaction and mutual trust between the communicators.
A Princeton University research team found that roughly 80% of social judgements we make boil down to warmth and competence. But because we feel like presentations need to be so perfect and professional, we too often squeeze the warmth right out of them. The result is presentations that are informative and exact, but cold. To capture conversational warmth in your presentation, be vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to use emotion. Also, be trustworthy. If you truly care about the audience’s best interest, this genuine regard will come across.
Think for just a moment about all the variety and “texture” in a conversation: pitch changes, rate changes, pauses, laughter, volume changes, facial expression, animated body language, proxemics. All of these things make everyday conversation exciting and colorful. And yet, when we take the stage to present, we often lose the great variety of human communication. We lock into one pitch, one volume, one rate. We limit our movement, and our body language becomes stiff and robotic. It’s important that we find ways to instill variety into our presentations by capturing what comes naturally in conversation.
While we can’t have the back and forth dialogue of conversation, we can still seek to make interaction a priority in our presentations. In an interview published in Forbes, Jim Haudan, cofounder and chairman of Root Inc., and Rich Berens, CEO of Root, Inc. discuss the power of conversation. Haudan says, “leaders need to elevate conversation over presentation.” Berens adds, “The only way to truly create engagement and trust, to enact that discretionary energy of people, is to have authentic conversations. There is no viable alternative. That’s because these conversations make people feel dignified, valued, and worthy. And that goes to the core of what people want—which is the make a difference and matter.”
Look for ways to accomplish these same goals in your presentations. How can you make people feel “dignified, valued, and worthy?” How can you show them that they “make a difference and matter?” Perhaps you allow time to respond to audience questions, or you get creative about eliciting input. It could just be as simple as repeatedly tying your ideas back to how they affect or connect to the members of the audience.
Whatever your methods for accomplishing it, do whatever you can to retain the warmth, variety, and interaction of conversation in your future presentations. You’ll be surprised at the positive results when you change your view of presenting from “public speaking” to “elevated conversation.”
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