Ever been so bored or distracted by a speaker that you would give anything to stretch out for a little siesta? Or have you found yourself glancing at your watch every thirty seconds and wondering why the time is passing so slowly?
Have you noticed that often, these snooze-masters are high-level executives or technical gurus who should have long since developed better presentation skills? We have all suffered through such presentations and perhaps, just perhaps, we have been that kind of presenter at one time ourselves.
Boring presentations in business are costly in at least three ways: They hurt the presenter’s career. The audience’s time is wasted. The audience fails to get the message.
Two Communication Errors
Speakers can miss the mark for two reasons. First, boring speakers do not communicate enthusiasm. They lack energy, excitement and power. In an attempt to establish credibility, they become too academic and factual. Their talks are too detail-oriented to hold people’s attention. While they may feel enthusiastic inside, what the audience experiences is the monotone voice, the lack of gestures and no eye contact.
Second, a speaker can have plenty of energy, yet demonstrate distracting visual or vocal mannerisms so severe that the audience simply is unable to pay attention to the content.
I recently heard a world-renowned authority on human brain function. I had been looking forward to the presentation with great anticipation. As he got rolling, though, he began to pace and speak in a rhythmic monotone. I glanced around the audience and saw many people with glazed eyes. His repetitive, distracting mannerisms actually put people into a light hypnotic trance.
Vocal mannerisms such as odd rhythm, a monotone voice, use of phrases and non-words like “you know,” “uh,” and long-winded sentences, create communication blocks for the audience. Repetitive, unconscious, nervous gestures not only distract an audience’s attention, they communicate lack of confidence and nervousness.
Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, once said that dreams are “the royal road to the unconscious.” Similarly, in presentation skills training, video is the “royal road to the unconscious.” We become aware of our unconscious habit patterns by seeing ourselves doing them. This is the first step to change.
It is hard to be aware of our “style” and mannerisms while we speak. Video or audiotape feedback helps us to become aware of how we look and sound to our audience, which can help us eliminate annoying habits and boring delivery.
When people see their videos, analyze their style, substance and staging they make immediate changes. Even more powerful than video, though, is “stop-action coaching.” This involves stopping a speaker as he or she is doing something that needs to be corrected (or reinforced). In this way, the speaker can incorporate changes during the presentation and start learning immediately the new, more effective style of delivery. To do this, get together a small audience, i.e., friends, colleagues or family, and ask them to make suggestions as you deliver your talk. While this will be disorienting at first, the long-term payoff in improving your style will be worth it. People in your future audiences will be listening to your presentation with rapt attention!