Three Lessons for Speakers and Presenters from “Friday Night Lights”

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Have you ever been a part of an activity that allowed you to work with an inspiring coach?

I enjoyed many sports and clubs throughout high school and college, but if I had to choose the one coach who made me want to play the hardest it was Jerry Logan, my grade school basketball coach.

Every practice was packed with instruction. I remember drills that were completed again and again. Having to shoot and make 20 free throws before we could leave the gym.

Every game was the opportunity to showcase the hard work and dedication he was expecting and inspiring in us.

Coach Eric Taylor (played by Kyle Chandler) in “Friday Night Lights” is that kind of coach. When his team, the Dillon Panthers, takes the football field he tells the boys:

Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.

Coach Taylor’s advice works equally well off the gridiron and can help you make better presentations.

1. Give your audience clear eyes by focusing your message and making killer eye contact.

You need to have focus going into your talk. This could mean something as simple as turning off your computer and writing your thoughts down on paper.

Old school?

Perhaps.

Less likely to be distracted by all that technology and social media has to offer?

Definitely.

Allow yourself to process the big idea that your talk is built around. That big idea is the main point you want your listeners to walk away with.

If they only remember one thing from your entire presentation, what do you want that to be? You need to build everything around that thought.

And eye contact is crucial not just for you, the speaker, but your audience needs it as well.

Make good eye contact and you’ll get instant feedback. Are they getting your big idea? If you can see their eyes, you’ll know.

Your audience expects you–wants you–to look them in the eye. Using great eye contact will show that you’re confident and that you want to connect with them.

2. Give your audience full hearts by moving them to action.

When you speak you have the opportunity to lead and inspire–don’t let that opportunity pass you by. You’re not just there to give information; no, you want your audience to do something, to move.

If you want action from your audience, you need to think about who they are. Speak to each person like they are the only one in the room.

Focus your talk by answering questions about your audience members that go deeper than their demographics:

  • What are their hopes, fears, and dreams?
  • What is their pain, need or frustration.
  • What do you want them to do?
  • Why might they say no?

The answers to these questions can make your presentations more relevant and powerful.

Write your talk to move that person who is sitting in the crowd with her arms crossed asking,“So what?” If you can reach her, the rest of the audience will be easy.

Fill their hearts by showing your passion as well. A great way to make your talk memorable is to use emotion. 

How do you want your audience to feel at the end of your talk? Inspired? Called to action?

Craft your message in a way that uses emotion. Consider the words you will use and the voice you will deliver them with. Varying your use of words, your volume and your pace will add contrast and make your talk more interesting to your listeners.

We remember more when we feel. If you can make your listeners feel, you can make them care. Choose words that will make an impact on your audience.

Make them care, and they will act.

3. Give a well-planned presentation that can’t lose.

A successful presentation, just like a great play on the football field, takes planning and practice.

Great teams scrimmage and so do great speakers.

Take the time to run through your talk from beginning to end a couple of times. Ensure that you can make it through your introduction using that great eye contact we already talked about. Connect.

And a team wouldn’t practice without its gear. Practice like you’re going to play. Use the tools you’ll be presenting with: your computer, your projector, your remote. Stand in front of a large room. Find a co-worker to listen. Run through your slides from beginning to end.

It’s like Coach Taylor says,

Clear eyes. Full hearts. Can’t lose.

 

Insights on Sales and Presenting from Dan Pink’s New Book, To Sell Is Human

To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink - Renovate Communication Design, LLC blogYou’ve probably found that a good part of your day is spent persuading others. Bosses persuade (or tell) their employees to get things done. Workers cajole their colleagues. Parents implore their children. My kids seem to possess a persuasion gene when they want something from me. If I had that gene, it’s apparently recessed over the years.

If you present or speak regularly, you already know this because you’re in the persuasion and marketing business. That’s the perspective we take in our Presentation Renovation approach.

So if we’re all attempting to influence those around us, wouldn’t it make sense to learn how to do that well?

Dan Pink’s new book, To Sell Is Human, is like a toolbox packed with the stuff you need to effectively persuade and influence others. The key here is effectively.

Like Dan’s other books, TSIH is built on loads of interviews, observation, survey data, and social science research. He convincingly makes the case that, while 1 out of every 9 workers in the U.S. is “in sales,” the work environment has changed enough over the years that many of us spend up to 40% of our days in “non-sales selling:” persuading, influencing, and convincing others in non-purchase situations.

So you may not be Willy Loman but you’re still likely selling–whether you sell for a living or not.

TSIH is divided into three parts. Part One explains how this new world of selling/persuasion came to be. The second and third parts, briefly summarized in the video below, help equip you with the tools you need to work effectively in the new world.

Although the book won’t be available for another week, I’ve read a pre-release copy and it’s full of good stuff. (By the way, if you preorder before December 31, 2012, and send Dan your receipt, he’ll send you a nice little bundle of goodies for free.)

Here are just a few of the surprising insights you’ll find (with a view especially toward presenting).

Extraverts don’t make the best salespeople (or speakers)

It seems to be one of those unspoken truths: you have to be outgoing to sell or speak. If you beat yourself up because you’re not a back-slapping glad-hander, relax. In fact, research shows that people who ride the fence between introversion and extraversion—ambiverts—do better than either group because they can both listen (which introverts do well) and respond (which extraverts do well—see TSIH, chapter 4).

This results from what Dan calls attunement, the ability to see things from a point of view other than your own. It’s about getting inside the head of your audience–something that good speakers and presenters do even before they hit the stage.

Pumping up with positive self-talk is less effective than peppering yourself with questions

If you’ve felt stage fright before a talk (we all have and do), maybe you’ve given yourself a little pep talk: “I can do this, I’ll be great, they’ll love me!” Instead, interrogative self-talk—asking yourself questions—may be more effective.

When you ask questions, you automatically start seeking solutions (see TSIH, chapter 5). This is the quality of buoyancy, the ability to keep going in the face of rejection—an essential skill for salespeople and presenters alike.

Next time you prepare a talk, don’t give yourself a pep talk (“This is going to be a great talk!”). Rather, ask, “How can I make this a great talk for my audience?” Then figure out how to do that.

Uncovering problems for your audience/client may be more valuable than offering solutions

A good speaker (or salesperson or consultant) should be an expert at asking questions. Why? When you’re awash in information and data, what you really need is someone to help frame the problem you’re trying to answer. Asking good questions reveals the problem that ultimately needs to be addressed. Clarity is the quality that helps you do just that (see TSIH, chapter 6).

Some compelling research shows that creativity is really about finding problems, not finding solutions:

[the] people most disposed to creative breakthroughs in art, science, or any endeavor tend to be problem finders. These people sort through vast amounts of information and inputs, often from multiple disciplines; experiment with a variety of different approaches; are willing to switch directions in the course of a project; and often take longer than their counterparts to complete their work. (TSIH, 129*)

If you regularly present or train on a certain topic, incorporate ways to ask your audience questions–not necessarily for the sake of providing answers, but for provoking and gaining insight. Let your audience work a little bit.

Learn to persuade with the new ABCs

To Sell Is Human contains a number of practical exercises and tools to help you learn attunement, buoyancy, and clarity. In addition, presenters and consultants will find a great deal of application (not to mention thought-provoking ideas) in the last three chapters which cover pitching, improvising, and serving. For example, instead of a 30- to 60-second elevator pitch, can you pitch your business or idea with just one word? And could studying improv help you with your persuasion skills? Interestingly, speaker Scott Berkun and coach Nick Morgan have recommended improv lessons/workshops as well. And, at its heart, selling is really about serving: making the world a better place. Isn’t that why we present as well?

Treat yourself and your team to Dan Pink’s new book, To Sell Is Human. Highly recommended.

*Page numbers based on the pre-release copy. The published page numbers may differ.

5 ways to minimize distractions and gain more listeners

Distractions, just like life, are going to happen. But you can improve your delivery and remain connected with your audience by minimizing the distractions that may be in your presentations.

Here are 5 ways to get started.

  1. Eliminate unnecessary text – If your audience can read your entire presentation from your slide on the screen, you have made yourself unnecessary. It’s that simple. You hold all of the information and your slides are for emphasis. Make yourself necessary by putting the attention back on you.
  2. Clothes matter – Make sure that you can move in the clothes you are wearing for your talk. Clothing that needs constant adjustment won’t work. And men–remember that the day of your presentation isn’t the time to wear that overly bold tie. For the ladies–don’t put on those extra dangly or overly large hoop earrings. The focus should be on your face and not your accessories.
  3. Move on purpose – Your movements should be intentional and add emphasis to your presentation. You will gain more attention by standing still and directing your energy into your facial expression, voice, and gestures. A good time to move, a few steps to the left or right is during the transitions of your speaking points. This will help you keep your audiences’ attention and move them with you to your next idea.
  4. Project your voice – If people have to strain to hear you, they won’t for very long. Make sure the person in the back of the room is as engaged by your voice as the one in the front. You may need to lower the tone of your voice to help it travel farther.
  5. Acknowledge the distraction – Inevitably a loud air-conditioner will turn on at the moment you most need the attention of your audience or it could be a technical glitch that everyone notices. By drawing attention to the distraction with your words, you allow your audience to admit they were distracted and everyone can move forward together. Otherwise, they spend time wondering if you even heard it or how you could have possibly ignored it, taking their attention away from you and your message.

Paying attention to your presentation–in all its parts–will allow your audience to return the favor.

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