“Increasingly powerful systems seek to ensure that our attention is never truly ours… We are witnessing the dark side of our new technological lives … Vast quantities of high-pressure media content are pumped into our faces.”
You know this because you too are distracted by emails, breaking news and discounts.
This guest opinion NYT essay goes on to share, “You are lucky these days to get 47 seconds of focused attention on a discrete task.”
How do you get heard above the noise when you only have 47 seconds?
Be unique from the get go. Do not begin a meeting, presentation or even a Linked In post with generic pleasantries. Start with a startling statement, a story, a quote, or a solution to a problem targeted to your listeners.
Tell good stories – in a speech, at your holiday party table, or in the hallways at your next conference.
Schedule carefully. Place your presentation mid-morning if possible. Caffeine has been injected and your digital life is under control.
Insert breaks – if you’re talking for more than 90 minutes.
Mix it up. If you’re giving a presentation of any length keep your content moving and include your audience in nonthreatening ways.
Be organized. Tangents will kill you.
Use humor. Carefully. I’m not a fan of jokes because you might alienate others. Use self-deprecating humor. One time my computer blew up. Another time someone stole it. Painful then, funny now … and lessons abound. (Always bring a backup and put your info/ppt in the cloud.)
Bribe often! I always throw snickers into the group to bring home the point that we need to snicker/chuckle more. Take your work seriously, take yourself a little less seriously.
Catching a small piece of chocolate – perfect attention crisis antidote!
Think of a 500-piece puzzle. Heck, think of a 50-piece puzzle. Either way you begin by dumping out all of those pieces on a table and finding the four corners. You build from there.
Same principle applies to the way you communicate. Whether you are delivering a company business update, or you’re on a panel about how Wall Street evaluates your organization, or you’re writing an email – you begin by developing your “four corners”.
You need to construct these four “corners” to get heard above the noise ➜
🎤 CORNER #1 — Your Audience: Who are you talking to and what do they need/want to know? How can you meet and exceed their expectations?
🎤 CORNER #2 — Your Statement of Purpose: What’s your overarching theme? If this is a book, what’s the title? If this is an email, what’s your concise subject header?
🎤 CORNER #3 — Your Return on Investment: What’s the ROI for your listeners … at your quarterly town hall, in a zoom meeting, on the golf course, or by email? Will you save them time or money? Will you increase their competitive advantage? Will you make them happier or stop their headaches? Sharing your ROI creates buy in.
🎤 CORNER #4 — Your Call To Action: After listening to you or reading your digital info what do you want them to do, think or feel? What are your “next steps”? Without a “call to action” you have wasted everyone’s time, including yours.
Your next steps: When you communicate formally, informally or electronically, develop your Statement of Purpose, ROI, and Call to Action while knowing exactly who your audience is and what they want.
Picture you’re on a set for a commercial shoot. It’s a “video village” collection of director’s chairs and monitors. 36 professionals from makeup, hair and wardrobe to teleprompter & script editors to ad agency folks to the photography team to the director hover over their respective domains of production.
Such was the background for my week of coaching the talent on set for this large tech company.
The action starts. The talent begins to share his message. And… then… everything comes to a dead halt.
The ankle reveal.
The two producers, zooming in from Seoul, say, “We don’t like the talent’s ankles.”
They go on to comment, “The focus needs to be on his face and his content, and we are distracted by the half-inch of revealed ankles between his loafers and the European cut pants.”
What’s this have to do with you?
You’re probably not doing video shoots with 36-people production crews, BUT you are communicating as a leader all the time… AND DETAILS MATTER.
Little details that create big outcomes.
Your gestures – are you fiddling with your cuticles, wringing your hands, or pushing your hair repetitively behind your ears?
Your stance – are you swaying, standing more on one leg and then the other, pacing, doing a meaningless fox trot movement, or slouching?
Your eye contact – are you just looking at the power people in the room, staring out over the tops of audiences’ heads, or doing the eye dart maneuver?
Your setting/background in-person or virtually – are you fighting for your audience’s flea-sized brain cells due to distractions behind you?
The rest of the commercial.
Our video production stops for 55 minutes! Big discussions are held between the wardrobe people, the ad agency people, the on-set director, and the producers in Seoul.
My talent puts on a pair of socks.
Guess what? It was the right move. Your gaze never goes down to the guy’s feet (even though you never realize that his ankles cause a distraction).
Don’t get me started on how much time it took to select the pillows on the background couch.
A compelling presentation is NEVER just about your data.
4 questions to ask yourself – and answer (!) – before giving any speech
1️⃣ How much time do you have?
Your best friend when giving a presentation is your clock or timer.
Don’t: glance at your watch while speaking – that’s distracting for you and your listeners.
Do: prepare and practice your comments to fit within your time limit.
2️⃣ How much do they know or need to know about your topic?
Your stealth bomb on getting heard above the noise is all around meeting the needs of your audience.
Don’t: underestimate or overestimate the topic knowledge level of your crowd.
Do: your due diligence on finding out their interest, experiences, pain points and successes on whatever you are about to say.
3️⃣ So what? What’s in it for them?
My clients often miss this one: the ROI – the Return On Investment for your listeners.
Don’t: forget to share this ROI, near the beginning of your remarks, out loud. Don’t: make it hard on your crowd to understand what they’ll gain from you.
Do: tell us how you’ll solve some issue, help us be more efficient, save us time and headaches, improve our bottom line. Pick any of these that work for your message, or figure out how you will help us… and then tell us.
4️⃣ What do you want them to do, think, or feel as a result of your speech or digital message?
If you don’t move the conversation forward in some way, then whatever you’ve shared in your message is a waste of our time. One of my mentors, Jeanne Robertson, of blessed memory, was a humorist. Her Call To Action (CTA) was to make us laugh and help us find the humor around us, even when times are tough. Perfect.
Don’t: leave us hanging!
Do: understand your CTA and share that with us. What are our “next steps” after reading your email or listening to your message?
Next steps for you
Be compelling when you speak by sticking to your time limit, creating your message to meet the needs of your audience, sharing your ROI, and moving your conversation forward by adding your Call to Action.
You communicate in these three ways: visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
Your visual modality – your pics and YOU, either on a post, in person, or on a video or streaming platform.
Your auditory channel – what we hear you say.
Your kinesthetic approach – your movement.
In that same order, your audience comprehends what you’re showing, saying and doing.
Your participants watch you and your slides (visual mode).
Your team listens to you (auditory mode).
And, coming in last – your message registers with your audience by your gestures, stance and movement.
What makes you most memorable
Your kinesthetic mode. Even though this mode comes behind visual and auditory in the way you comprehend info, it’s your most powerful approach! We remember more of what you say and show when incorporated with planned movement.
The mistakes you make
You spend your communication energy in the first two categories – visual and auditory – at the expense of the final approach – kinesthetic.
Often you don’t even know what you’re doing spatially! The main offenders: pacing and the box trot! You walk from right to left and go back and forth and we, your audience, feel like we are watching a tennis game! OR, even more common, you shuffle around as if you’re tracing the edges of a box. You think this makes you look casual and at ease. But, this haphazard moving around telegraphs your nervous energy.
Your communication challenge
Move with purpose. Feel free to move around, but be strategic.
Next week I’ll blog more about enhancing your audience retention by the way you present kinesthetically.
Author: Karen Cortell Reisman is Founder of Speak For Yourself®, a communication consulting firm, and the author of 2 books on how to communicate. She lives in Dallas, Texas and paces only when she’s waiting for the elevator at her high rise.
This weekly Speak For Yourself® Blog Series is all about how to communicate on the stage, in your board rooms, on your virtual platforms, in meetings and on email. You’ve gained insights on the how’s, what’s and why’s.
But I’m not sure if we’ve ever unpacked how to get back your mojo after you’ve screwed up in any of the above communication scenarios.
How I could’ve answered Jill: “Jill – I’ve presented my Einstein keynote many times from La Jolla to Chicago to Montreal to Las Vegas to Jerusalem to Phoenix. It’s been well received, except to one crowd. It was at the Marriott World Congress Hotel in Orlando in 2010 on the main stage at our National Speakers Association Convention to 1,000 colleagues. Very Big Deal. Huge. NOT a place to fail. And … the speech did not resonate. It fell flat. And now, today’s dress rehearsal… it’s an updated version and many of the attendees in this upcoming zoom crowd were also at the 2010 Orlando speech.”
I decided that Jill and Barbara did not need to hear about my gremlins. BUT – maybe you do. Just maybe you’ve also had to face a group, again, after screwing up. How do you do it?
Some “How to get over your own gremlins” Advice
Admit when you’ve failed and figure out why it happened and how to recalibrate.
Talk to trusted friends/colleagues/mentors to gain insights; listen to their suggestions; and then embrace what works for you and gently lay aside what does not work for you.
Don’t give up. Sounds trite – but keep on keeping on.
Get better at your craft. Continue to grow. (I took improv classes, humor labs, kept speaking, consulting and writing, and I continue to attend almost every National Speakers Association meeting. Heck, I even became president of our own North TX Chapter of NSA!)
With this blog I officially let go of the negative influence of that Orlando speech. You heard it here!! I will only add it to my many experiences as a speaker and use it as a positive learning tool.
So, how did my current zoom presentation go? I’ll let Patricia Fripp, Speaker Hall of Fame, answer this question.
“Your presentation was nothing less than life changing. Your storytelling agility and emotional connect are as good as any speaker I have seen. As you know I am a 44-year member of NSA and listen to and study speakers. You receive the ‘Fripp 14’ out of a scale of 1-10. Feel free to use these comments to shamelessly promote yourself.”
Thanks, Fripp. I have! 😎
*Yes, I’m related to Albert Einstein and this keynote is all about hope, resilience and brassieres. You’ll just have to hear it. You’ll gain strategies on how to handle life’s craziness.
PS: And, thanks to Barbara, Jill, Robin, Ann, Jimmy, Nina, Judy, Harriet, Penni, Neal, Ilene, Caroline, Tasca, Derek, Blake, Heather, Brian, Andria, Izzy, and many more who have been my past dress rehearsal targets! It takes a village.
Author:Karen Cortell Reisman is Founder of Speak For Yourself® , a communication consulting firm, and the author of 2 books on how to communicate. She lives in Dallas, Texas and cannot explain the Theory of Relativity.
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