What commonalities have you noticed about people who are true “masters” on stage? What are those small differences that, when put into motion, over time lead to large differences that separate them from the pack? As a student of presentation skills since 1992, I’ve made a lot of observations. It just gets clearer and clearer to me. Though simple, these habits define our growth rate over time. Do you incorporate these habits?
#1 Think Differently:
Did you know that the very first thing Craig Valentine did when he got off the plane after winning the World Championship of Public Speaking was to buy a book on public speaking? That’s the attitude of a master presenter! People who are the best — and have a passion for their craft and their message — are always looking to learn more. If every presenter had an attitude like Craig’s, we’d never sit through a boring presentation again! When I jumped into the comedy world, I took every class I could. Many of my teachers became “life changing” mentors. I have invested $10,000 each year for the past three years in my own education. Because that has been so helpful, I’ve already invested more than $20,000 for this coming year. Will you invest more in your own self-development this year?
#2 Put Effort Into Your Introduction:
A master presenter understands that “setting up” the listening is just as important as what’s actually said. Too many presenters put no time or effort into their introductions. If anything, they give the introducer an ego-filled bio that’s usually about seven minutes too long. True professionals limit their introductions to less than three minutes. Their introductions contain “you-focused” questions, a quick blurb about credibility, and perhaps a single, humbling piece of personal information. An introduction should answer: Why should people listen to you? What will they get out of giving you their time?
#3 Focus on Connecting with the Audience First:
Master presenters are fully aware that they must “connect” with an audience before they can persuade them. The connection is crucial. This is why I spend a great deal of time researching my keynote audiences before I speak. And, I don’t stop there… I also attend other conference sessions prior to mine, just to find that “one nugget” that will allow me to connect with them. In fact, this ties into the previous point — part of your introduction’s purpose is to begin the process of connecting. Do you strategically focus on connecting?
#4 Long Enough Pauses:
Master presenters pause for the benefit of the audience, not for their own comfort level. Too many people on stage only pause long enough for their own comfort. They don’t hold the pause long enough for the audience to “think.” That’s the whole point of the presentation! Master presenters know that if they’re not letting their audience reflect on their own perspective, they’re actually breaking the connection with the audience. All too often, the presenter is the problem — not the audience. If you ask a simple yes or no question, a short pause is plenty. If your question requires deeper thought, let them think! Do you pause long enough? If they’re not reflecting, you are not connecting!
#5 Worry Bigger:
Master presenters are much more concerned for the audience’s outcome, than what the audience will think of them. I recently interviewed Maria Austin, a Professional Trainer, for an audio learning program for new trainers. She’s really good at this. She has what I call the “Maria Mindset.” Before she was a Trainer, she was in customer service, and she brought her “serious service” attitude with her when she began training. She looks at training with the same attitude. The only difference is that her product is now education. She is so adamant about what the audience members take away. She fully understands that it’s not about her. Do you?
#6 Get Lots of Laughs:
It has been said that you don’t have to use humor in presentations unless you want the audience to listen. Although you can have a powerful presentation without it, most master presenters usually have heavy doses of humor. Here is a crucial difference between good speakers and masters. Master presenters infuse humor into their stories. It’s not a tangent from the message. Many less-experienced presenters will just tell a joke or use something they found on the internet. They use it to break the ice. Wrong! Humor should always have some relevance to your main message. Otherwise, it’s a detour and it wastes valuable time! Keep in mind what Steve Allen said: “Humor arises from the incongruity between the character and the situation.” The essence of the “sitcom.” As speakers, we need “sit-stories.” The purpose of the story should be to anchor a key point. If you’re not getting laughs now… learn to!
#7 Crave Feedback:
When master presenters walk off the platform, they are fully aware that a crucial part of their next presentation is just about to begin. It doesn’t matter what we say, it only matters what is heard by the audience. Presenters who are passionate about their message are constantly evolving. New ideas are constantly “tested.” Things that are common in my keynotes now, were once new ideas. For example, I never used to show a video clip of my very first time on stage. And, I never used to show a photo of my closet full of video recordings. They’re now essential parts of my keynote. Someday, they may be replaced with an even more powerful story, photo, or idea. When I spoke in Canada this past fall, I had a video introduce me!
If you’re not already a master presenter, are you on track to becoming one? If you believe you already are, may I suggest you read Habit #1 again? Occasionally, I get off-track, too… but it only takes one humbling audience to remind us that we all still have much to learn!
Where will your current habits take you in five years?
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Darren LaCroix, 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking
Ccopyright 2009 The Humor Institute, Inc. http://www.DarrenLaCroix.com