Enhancing Business Presentations: Adding Opinion & Personality

Sections of this topic

    Actually, this is PART II of Trainers Who Talk, Talk, Talk with Nothing to Say…

    dic-commThis is a good example of a blog that ran away with itself or a writer who lost control or became too passionate. It started as a way of demonstrating presentations or training had to have substance and at the same time–something besides buzzwords and slogans. You might say I grew a bit long-winded. At any rate, I saw a way to remedy that. My blogs tend to be long anyway, but this one really became two separate topics, so here they are. No changes really, except editorially just not as big a chunk to read when you are looking for snippets of information or opinion.

    According to Peter Watts, Writer, Coach & Trainer, and author of The Presenters’ Blog: “Every time you make a presentation, you commit a blatant act of opinion, and that’s good. That’s exactly as it should be. The opinion makes it challenging. The opinion makes it distinctive. The opinion makes memorable.”

    The case Peter makes in his article makes very good sense, but it is still public speaking. Hopefully, his tips can help the experienced presenter, business presenter, speaker, or trainer each do it better.

    The opinion certainly makes us more interesting, especially when it is backed up with facts. Since I teach at a university as well as coach clients, I know my students hang on to my every word as long as I’m not boring as a textbook. However, I don’t think it is the only opinion that makes me an “interesting” speaker; however, it is an amazingly large part of who we are–along with attitude, experiences, personality, sense of humor, etc. My buzzwords in public speaking: know your audience, know your subject, and know yourself.

    I definitely think the business presenters need to include the audience and themselves (let their personalities shine through) and opinion is where you’ll find it in the presentation. One caution though, I had a colleague once who inappropriately gave his opinion to the wrong audience, federal government to state government, and the state government was insulted; my colleague was pretty much censored after that and was very lucky he wasn’t fired.

    It’s fine to “stick to the facts,” as most business presenters do, however, you can go too far. If one of my speech students did that without any attempt at audience analysis or bringing him or herself into the speech that student would be lucky to get a “C.” Even business presenters need to pull their audience in with a smile and keep their attention. So often these business presenters want to blend in the background of their material and I would bet they are that way in the office, too. I would also guess that, like most of the population, this presentation is about the last thing they want to do, but they have to. This is where bringing a successful speech coach or trainer in from the outside makes a difference. In-house speech coaches or trainers don’t usually have much effect because the very fact that the coach-trainer is in-house puts more pressure on the employee to succeed. Speaking to an audience is an intensely personal thing–even if it is for work.

    I always tell my speech students, my clients, as well as any other presenters and trainers to own the space and control the room. They know what it means to own the space. How do you control the room? I make my students responsible for handling the audience during their assigned speeches. That is the speaker’s job. Nothing like a little pressure to keep you focused.

    You’re the one standing at the front of the room and speaking, while everybody else is sitting down and listening, so you already stand out. While you’re up there, why not enjoy it? With experience, that initial nervousness will one day turn into a rush. Trust me.

    Peter says, “I’m going to argue that exercising and owning your opinion is a vital part of presenting. That it’s an unavoidable aspect of presenting. And that when something is unavoidable, it’s best embraced in a great big hug. That’s my opinion anyway!”

    He goes on in his article to discuss why presenters and others don’t feel it wise to share opinions. I find that most common with university students, but not so much with my executive clients. It certainly may be true of business presenters; I know it was true of government presenters who even though they did it badly, meant visibility, and that meant promotion. Some opinions become more embedded with maturity.

    While I don’t squash opinions, everyone’s got one–even in my class. If I want a great speech or presentation (and you know I do), I’m going to see if my students or my client’s opinions are backed up. It doesn’t matter which; we are talking about speaker credibility–another topic for a blog. When you are on stage with a business presentation or any presentation, for that matter, remember the egocentrism and ethnocentrism of your audience. Share both sides of the argument before giving your opinion and why.

    According to Peter Watts, “First, accept that merely by choosing the facts you will present and the order in which you will present them, you have already committed an unavoidable B-list act of opinion. Who wants to be a B-lister? Let’s go for the A-list and add some spice! Here’s how:”

    1: Own It – It’s Not “WE“, It’s “ME

    Unless you are taking part in a team presentation, make sure that the pronouns “I” and “my” are front and center. There’s a sound reason why the sound of I’s and My’s are good things to go for: Skilled job interviewers are trained to listen-out for candidates who continuously say “We” rather than “I”. “We” is used to conceal either a lack of conviction or a lack of evidence. After all, it’s not “me” that’s saying it, it’s “we” that’s saying it.

    2: Have an Emotional Intent

    What is the emotion that you want to convey with these facts? In business presentations, your goal is to persuade others of a course of action, and the driver to action is emotion. Facts seldom drive anything. It’s the emotional interpretation of those facts that creates intention. Therefore don’t be afraid to use emotional words when presenting.

    Share your feelings. If an opportunity excites you then say that you are excited. If a set of results delights you, then say that you are delighted. If a negative forecast concerns you then say that you are concerned. And if outstanding performance has amazed you, then say that you are amazed! Words like these give emotion, and emotion is spice. Spice is color. Color is paprika, bright red with a fabulous flavor. Flavor is opinion!

    3: Bring Your Face Into the Act

    If it’s good news, smile. If it’s bad news, frown. That might sound like common sense, but when we stand up to present, that urge to blend opinion-less into the podium can lead us to adopt a passionately bland expression. Many Chief Executives, completely unbeknown to themselves, will go onto the stage with their faces meticulously locked into neutral. They think they are expressing powerful opinions, and indeed, their scripts often do express powerful opinions, but the fact that the faces delivering those opinions remain as blank as storefront mannequins will rip the plasticky stuffing right out of the speech.

    “You are your opinions, and your business presentations are expressions of those opinions.”

    “Own them. Enjoy them. Let them bring the spice that propels your presentations direct to the A-list.”

    I chose to leave Peter’s three major points together. I did take some of the wording out for length purposes. I apologize to him and anyone else who feels I changed the meaning by doing so. Everywhere Peter is highlighted is a link to the original article. As I continued to study Peter‘s article and my take on the subject matter, I came to realize we may have been talking about the same thing, although I have a much narrower definition of opinion. It could be the fact that I’m American and Peter is from the UK. I still feel Peter’s point of view is interesting to hear the way he expresses it. My blog has seen guest writers from all over the world he is welcome to write on a training topic of his choice anytime.

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    A final reminder: I do have a website where you can find other items I have written, including coupons for my best-selling, The Cave Man Guide To Training and Development, and my novel about the near future, Harry’s Reality! You might even get them for free. Happy Training.