7 Steps to Presenting With Impact
The Mindful Way
What is Mindful Presenting?
To explain exactly what Mindful Presenting is it’s often helpful to begin by making it clear what it isn’t.
I was recently invited to join an afternoon of Senior Management team business presentations for a company I will soon be helping to develop their presentation skills. The idea behind joining them was to enable me to observe first-hand their current skill levels with a view to building a bespoke programme to help them make a greater impact.
Here’s What I Saw...
Ten Senior Managers sitting around a board room style table each taking it in turn to read a deck of densely populated PowerPoint slides to the Financial Director.
Other than a cursory glance at those immediately opposite them they each rushed through their slides oblivious to their other eight colleagues in the same room. I could have been mistaken for thinking they had each left their personalities in the desk drawers; it was simply a ritualistic reading of slides.
The agenda I had been given clearly labelled each presentation as either a ‘discussion’ or ‘decision required’ yet I saw no evidence of either taking place.
We see it every week up and down the country
A short time ago I paid the princely sum of £432 to attend a conference hosted by speakers from some on the World’s most powerful brands who promised to tell me how I would learn to ‘harness technology to accelerate business growth’.
Instead, I spent hours squashed in a room full of hundreds of other unsuspecting souls listening to these highly influential speakers tell me how fabulous their businesses are; the epitome of self-promotion and self-indulgence at my expense, literally.
We see this several times a year
My point is that these presentations are mindless rather than mindful, but it really doesn’t have to be that way.
Making Presentations Mindful
Step 1- Know What You Want
The Mindful Presenter crafts and delivers a presentation with clarity of purpose.
They know exactly what it is they hope to achieve through the message they are delivering to their audience and everything they say, show and do is prepared with that objective at the forefront of their mind. They begin their preparation with 3 questions in mind:
- What do I want?
- What is in the way of what I want?
- How am I going to get what I want?
In the first example I shared, I had no idea what any of the presenters wanted yet they were all Senior Managers of a multi-billion pound organisation. Whether it’s approval, a sale, support, a budget or simply understanding if you’re not clear what it is you want then you can be sure your audience won’t be either.
Step 2 - Set an Intention
It's all well and good having a clear goal but without knowing what's in the way of you achieving it and how you’re going to get it then it’s likely to remain just that, a goal.
The Mindful Presenter creates an emotional connection to their message as well as an intellectual one. This means they are very clear on why, what they have to say should be important to their audience and why they should care.
Their intention is to make their audience feel something about what it is they have to share as it’s feelings that drive action. There are as many intentions as there are objectives and once you know what you want the challenge is to know how you want your audience to feel.
Is it inspired, encouraged, enlightened, reassured, empowered, involved or something completely different?
Step 3 - Have Great Content
I read an article yesterday written by a presentation coach and former journalist who wrote:
‘I’m sick of passion. Passion has become a meaningless word’
He then went on to ask his readers to,
‘Please stop being passionate.’
As you can imagine as someone who is ‘passionate’ about presenting I was very disturbed by his comments. In my experience passion is one of the vital ingredients we see missing from business presentations every day.
That said, there has to be much more than just passion.
We often see presenters who appear to believe that they can deliver irrelevant and meaningless content just because they are ‘passionate’ about being heard. The Mindful Presenter knows that the quality of their content is critical to their objective and intention.
They build every aspect of their presentation with two questions in mind that they don’t want to get from their audience:
‘So what, why are you telling me that?’
‘Why should I care?’
Their content is thoughtfully assembled so that they know they will never be asked those questions because what they are sharing is also what their audience needs to know for their own benefit.
Step 4 - Be in the Room
Prior to founding Mindful Presenter I was an executive director of a number of global brands. I remember having to attend a board meeting one day to present to the Chairman, CEO and a room full of directors that a multi-million pound project I was responsible for was running way over budget and well over schedule. It was never going to be easy.
My solution then, as it remains today any time before I present anything, was to centre myself with a few minutes of meditation.
It didn’t fix the budget or the schedule but it helped me to be totally present, in control and grounded in the board room.
Imagine this, you’re sitting there reading this blog and a dog walks into the room and sits on the floor right beside you. The dog knows he’s in the room but he doesn’t necessarily know that he knows he’s in the room. You on the other hand are not only in the same room but you know you know you are in the room.
Stay with me
The Mindful Presenter takes a few minutes before each presentation to meditate so that they clear their mind to enable them to be completely in the room with their audience.
Step 5 - Mindful Presenters Don’t Present, They Connect
The average business presenter presents an idea or information and they normally achieve that through a ‘left brain’ approach of relying largely on using logic and data to make an intellectual connection with their audience.
The Mindful Presenter invests their awareness and energy on creating an emotional connection by engaging in a conversation.
Mindful presenters still work with logic, data, case studies and evidence but they stimulate and engage the ‘right brain’ also by:
- Telling relevant stories
- Using descriptive language
- Evoking curiosity
- Creating drama and suspense
- Using humour
- Using the full range of their voice
- Challenging their thinking
- Using metaphors and analogies
- Understanding the impact and congruence of body language
Step 6 – Engage All of Their Senses
The Mindful Presenter understands that it’s not enough to simply talk at an audience and show them slides.
They craft their presentation to engage as many of our human senses as possible, especially our sense of sight given that considerable research suggests most of us are visual learners.
- This means that when it comes to creating slides they think like a designer and create slides which are compelling, stunning and are sure to make an impact and be memorable.
- They use short powerful videos which may be relevant and add value to their objective and intention.
- They use props, where relevant and appropriate, as they know that getting their audience to touch something of importance can have a lasting impact.
- They involve them and make them feel part of the presentation by asking them questions, getting them to think, imagine and explore.
Step 7 - Smile
We see far too many presenters who simply don’t smile enough. They seem to operate under the belief that being professional means you have to be deadly serious all of the time when it’s really not true.
Mindful Presenters smile.
Most of them haven’t even read the scientific research that says:
- It releases neurotransmitters such as dopamine; endorphins and serotonin which make us feel good
- It can lower your heart rate and blood pressure
- It makes us more attractive and friendly
- It relaxes us and our audience
- When you smile at people they feel good and want to smile back
Mindful Presenters just smile because it makes them feel good and they know it’s the right thing to do for both them and their audience.
The World is Changing
The world has changed so much in the last 30 years alone. There have been massive advancements across all areas of our lives; medicine, transport, technology, engineering, education, etc. yet when it comes to presenting, too many people are still just reading out slides.
Audience’s, however, have also changed. What they demand and deserve more than ever is for presenters to respect and value their time by making a tangible difference to either their personal or professional lives.
It’s the Mindful Presenter who delivers with impact every time.
About the Author
Maurice De Castro is a former corporate executive of some of the UK’s best loved brands.
Maurice believes that the route to success in any organisation lies squarely in its ability to really connect with people. That’s why he left the boardroom to create a business helping leaders to do exactly that.