70 – 20 – 10

don’t put all your energy into the content

This is the fourth of five thoughts dealing with professional presentations and public speaking. An Australian survey found that 70% of executives believe that good presentation skills are critical to professional advancement. Despite the widely acknowledged importance of presentation skills, this slightly arrogant but award-winning speaker finds that most executives present badly.

While many focus their attention on the content of a speech, research highlights the importance of other factors. One such study found the impact of a speech on an audience to be:

  • 10% content
  • 20% tone
  • 70% tone presentation

Despite having some doubts about what ‘impact’ means and how it may be reliably measured, I have quoted these statistics because they ring true with my experience, and results are replicated in study after study.

Accurate or not, these numbers highlight the fact that presentation skills and tone are critically important, and that content alone is not enough to have any real impact on an audience.

Content is, in many respects, a hygiene factor. It has to be good, but when it is good, it is still just a starting point. To appreciate this, one need only consider the long political speeches full of facts and figures that no one listens to, or the lectures you slept through at university.

By contrast, consider the animation and passion of speeches delivered by Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Winston Churchill, John Kennedy, Seth Godin, or Simon Sinek. In the case of Simon Sinek, it could be argued that there is little content or substance – so it is all presentation and tone.

Part of the issue here is cognition vs emotion. Presentation and tone target the emotions and emotions stay with the audience. Content can also appeal to the emotions, but it more commonly influences cognition, which, while important, is less impacting. Interestingly, few people remember more than three points from a speech.

So how do you make a presentation that leaves an impression, one that gives at least equal weight to presentation, tone, and content? Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Offer excellent insights but say less. Limit yourself to three key points.
  • Speak slowly – and vary your pace for effect. Rapid fire is for experts.
  • Leave big pauses between ideas to give people time to consume them.
  • Look the audience in the eye and speak with them not at
  • Vary the volume of your voice, highlighting key points with vigour.
  • Get the content locked away in your head so you can focus on presentation.

These tips might help make your presentation more potent. Email me for more.

In 2018, have a conversation

Every year – put the facts ahead of intuition and guesswork.

Sources of core statistics – Corporate Communication Experts, The Career Café, Forbes, Making Business Matter and Alvernia University

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