Morning meeting presentations on ISO certifications, labour law or ergonomics don´t have to suck. Most presentations can actually be quite fun both for you and your audience. Lena Frisk is a presentation coach and stand-up comedian, and Caroline Bolmeson is a writing expert. They engaged in a conversation about 4 tips that can make all the difference for your presentations.
Lena: I do stand-up myself or watch it from backstage all the time. Stand-up is kind of an extreme version of presentation. We still don´t see a lot of women trying to be funny on stage but it is coming more and more. Most male aspiring comedians walk off stage after a gig, grabs a soda and checks their list of jokes. Some jokes worked, some didn´t. No big deal. Just kill the jokes that nobody laughed at. Seriously, some men don´t even notice that nobody laughed. They just think they owned it! Women on the other hand can get pretty devastated from having a bad gig. They decide not to ever come back or put themselves through such humiliation. Tough feedback can be hard to bounce back from. But we have to.
Do a lot of presentations, ask for feedback. Just ask for it from a trusted person. What was good? What can I do better? That is how you get better. And since nobody else ever asks for feedback, you will soon skyrocket past your peers, hehe!
Caroline: When I supported and coached our TEDxLundUniversity speakers in 2016, we had a few occasions when speakers tried to do stuff like they always had done them. Truth to be told, sometimes we just want to do a presentation the old and safe way. But it will not give you any growth and it will certainly not shake the world. A speaker we had did not want to use storytelling at all. Storytelling is ”the grand software” for ye old hardware – our brains. We just cannot NOT listen when there is a story unfolding. Me and my TEDx-colleague sat down with the speaker for a feedback-session and that was the occasion when the speaker started to talk passionately about the subject at hand. Off the record, we have no problem to talk in a natural way with common words, but on the record – when it matters – it seems like prestige is taking over and we feel the need to use difficult language, omit stories that illustrate important points etc, perhaps to make a serious impression.
Lena: Yeah, I had a similar experience having a pitch-training session with entrepreneurs in a workshop during The Conference. A female entrepreneur pitched about fire safety. The pitch was kind of dissociated and non-relatable and I asked her about why she worked with fire safety in the first place. Then her story unfolded. She and her child had been involved in a fire a few years earlier, and got away…barely. The fire practically licked her feet on her desperate way out. She realised after that experience what work we all can do to make fire safety a priority, and save lives every year. I asked her to use that personal story in her pitch and it was such a major difference in delivery and how her pitch was received.
Tell your stories. Become relatable to your listeners. Use your stories, the best ones are on major problems that you or someone else has overcome.
Lena: During the pitch workshop, the organisers had ventured outside the box and involved a modern dancer to teach the pitchers to get comfortable in their own bodies. It was…quite courageous of them. I mean, everybody is pretty uncomfortable in his or her own bodies in front of other people, especially when dancing. I come to think about this guy, really nervous, who wanted to seem more confident. He contacted me a few years ago to get help. Working in an international setting in a major company, he realised that he needed to vet his presentation skills if he were to convey his ideas to the bosses. He presented something for me and the stress he felt in his body just took over the room. He had adrenalin pumping and it needed to come out somehow, so he started to wander back and forth, back and forth. Ticks like that can be very distracting. Finally, I put heavy wellington boots on him and said:
- Here and here, next to you, Ming vases are placed. You cannot break them. Stand still, let the nervousness subside. And eventually, with practice, it did.
Record your presentation. Watch it. We all have ticks, and we can all kill them. If you want to know what the professionals, like TED-speakers, do with their hands during a talk; watch their talks online and do the same.
Caroline: I was recently to a science seminar about pooching rhinos in South Africa and how to prevent it with drones and park guards. The speaker, Fredrik, took up a sturdy-looking iPhone from his jeans pocket and told us that the national park guards carried this type of phone. Then Fredrik threw the damn phone in the floor, to show that this communication tool could withstand a lot. It had nothing to do with the talk really, but I remember the bamming sound and bouncing phone vividly. And I talk about this event all the time. Always be memorable! Use props!
Lena: Yeah, I hear you. At business meetings I go to ever week, we have a man from Renault that brings shit with him all the time. I mean, he is a car sales man so he wants to sell cars, but one time he brought a toaster for his business pitch. After every morning meeting he has someone who wants to try the new electric pod, or new model, he has in the parking lot.
Try to surprise. Can you replace that graph with a gadget, a picture that depicts a feeling that grabs our attention and imagination? The same old obvious slide can be always be replaced. It´s ok to joke as well!
Lena Frisk is a well-known stand-up comedian in Sweden. She is based in Malmö and works with presentation coaching. Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org / +46 704 780935
Caroline Bolmeson is a communication specialist working in TEDx-contexts and produces written content for blogs and websites. Contact info: email@example.com / +46 708 125020