As someone who has WOO and Communication in my Top Gallup Strengths, I enjoy and thrive in presenting and facilitating; either to a group of 5 people or 500 people and whether I know them well or not at all.
In 2006, Sir Ken Robinson delivered the most popular TED Talk of all time with 75M+ views. If you haven’t seen it, you must have a watch:
A few years later, while at Tennis Australia, Shane Garner delivered an incredible workshop on Presenting with Passion that genuinely made me feel I could match it with Sir Ken. I still remember and use the guiding principles, which I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me sharing, along with some basic rules that Aristotle wrote way back in 335 BC. I think these are invaluable if you’re worried about public speaking or wondering how to nail your presentation:
1. It’s a Privilege.
Sir Ken made his audience laugh every 29 seconds (as a professor he knew that the quickest way to get us to remember something is to make us laugh). Sir Ken also expertly leveraged Aristotle’s rhetorical appeals of persuasion:
Pathos (emotion and values),
Logos (reason and proof),
Ethos (personal credibility and trust),
Kairos (urgent action).
Whatever your topic, it’s a privilege to be able to share it with your audience.
2. Find Your Natural Style.
Even though this was a serious academic talk about educational reform, Sir Ken resisted the temptation to blast us with a litany of numbers (he only used 2 stats in his entire talk). I’m not a particularly funny person, and I learned from Presenting with Passion that it’s ok and instead to go with my own style which is confident and clear. In Presenting with Passion, I unpacked that I often turn deep red, full face and neck, the minute I stand to deliver a presentation. Shane helped me realise and practice that if I just breathe properly, deep breaths that slow my presentation and settle me, my face and chest either don’t turn red or if they’ve already started turning pink, I can stop them from getting to beet red. This skill has held me in great stead for all the presentations I’ve given over the past 13 years since!
3. Articulate, Anecdote, Action.
Sir Ken’s 19 minute talk was broken down into a simple 3 act structure.
Act I: Articulate – Be prepared to fail.
Act II: Anecdote – Why education fails.
Act III: Action – How to not fail in the future.
We often coach people on how to ‘storytell’ better and although articulate and action are important, it is usually the anecdote you’ll remember and incidentally, that you’ll likely find easier to present. Sir Ken shared 8 stories averaging just 2 mins 5 seconds each. Harvard’s MBA program estimates this is roughly the attention span of the average executive.
4. Never Apologise, Read, Hide.
Obviously it was a TED Talk, so Sir Ken was confident and mic’d up. He didn’t say anything (and nor should you) like, I’m sorry I’m nervous or I’m just going to read from my notes / script or stand behind a lectern or desk. If you’re nervous, it won’t help you to tell the audience of your nerves and apologise for them, just remember rule number one that it’s a privilege to be sharing with your audience. Even if the rest of your audience are sitting, you should stand, adopt a confident power pose, and deliver your message.
5. Don’t Use PowerPoint (like Sir Ken)
But, if you have to, go with the rule of 1 slide, every 5 mins, no more than 40 words per slide. Keep it very simple and do not put your ‘script’ on to a PowerPoint to read off; key points only!
All these tips are just that, tips. The key is practice, practice, practice. Even if it feels weird and even if you’re only presenting to 3 people, practice your presentation in front of family, friends or safe colleagues. When you practice, do it exactly as you will when you give your presentation, don’t detract at all from your five principles.