Tag Archive for 'engage'

The Engaging Speaker is aware of the changing energy in the room

Surviving an Ironman race needs control of your energy

I’ve completed the grueling Ironman Triathlon which is a race involving a 3.8km open water swim, 180km bike ride and finishes with a marathon, back to back all on the same day. The race has a cut off time of 17 hours and I finished my last one in around 12 hours 30 mins. Needless to say, it’s a long day and your energy levels change throughout the day. Nervous excitement before the swim. Steady rhythmic effort to complete the swim. A burst of energy on the bike before settling into a long ride with ups and downs, trying to hold on to your pace in the final 60km while holding back enough for the run. The marathon starts at a lively pace. It’s the final segment and if everything falls apart, you can always walk. You hold a pace, keep it ticking over. Everything seems good until half way through, muscles start to cramp, pain comes. Your pace drops a bit, you fight it to keep going. From 30-38km, you’re in complete pain, you think about quitting or walking. Somehow you keep your body moving forward quietly encouraging yourself and feeding off the energy of the crowd’s cheers. Finally you hit 38km, you realize that in 2km it’s only 2km to go. You perk up. Your pace rises. You find a new wind. You’re going to finish. The final one kilometer, you’re hitting euphoric levels as your endorphins kick in. You finish the marathon practically sprinting, fall over the line and break down into a heap. Before standing up with a warm painful glow of completion. Success.


Energy levels change through a presentation

The Engaging Speaker is aware that energy levels change through a presentation. Shorter presentations are easier to plan. Longer full day sessions require more detailed mapping. Remember people are fresh in the morning so get right into the content. Keep things moving along. Set the tone for starting and ending breaks on time. Plan your afternoons particularly carefully. Participants energy levels tend to dip around an hour to two after lunch, especially if they’ve had a big hotel buffet lunch. During this time period, move towards more physical exercises. Add higher impact team activities. Move things around. Shift venues. Keep things moving, changing and adapting. Finish strong. Have a clear conclusion to the day. Keep a couple of short energizers in your pocket in case the energy plunges. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Ask the participants what they’d like to do to pick up the energy.


Be aware that you create the energy in the room, not the audience

If you looked at your last talk or upcoming presentation in terms of creating energy, what would your energy chart look like? Would it be high at the start and then gradually falling away to nothing? Would it be low at the beginning, peak in the middle and drift off? Or would it look like a read out of a healthy heart with regular peaks and troughs. A good presentation should start and finish strong but should allow time to reflect, time to pick things up and a time for interaction.


What energy map are you creating?

Map your presentation’s energy chart. Is it in line with your message? A rallying sales meeting will start high and finish higher. A senior management crisis talk will have moments of low before building up momentum towards the end. The Engaging Speaker sets the tone for the talk and creates the energy, the enthusiasm, the experience for the audience.

Are you ready to sparkle with inspir-tainment?

Being a subject matter expert is often why you are called upon to deliver a speech. However, your content is not enough. You need the secret sauce of inspirtainment; an ability to both inspire and entertain your audience while delivering great content. This requires a deep source of inspirational stories and anecdotes that relate to your big idea or speech topic.

Moving people to action requires inspiration

One way to find inspiring examples is through other people. While visiting Holland, I was inspired by Richard Bottram. To raise awareness for cancer charities after he lost his wife to cancer, Richard conceived the idea of the Wheel of Energy situated next to Schipol Airport in Amsterdam. This huge wheel turned 24 hours a day for one year with people running in it at all times. Richard committed to run a marathon every single day for a year – 365 marathons. This amazing effort kept his worthy cause in the public’s mind and also engaged people around the world to come and run in the Wheel of Energy. As I listened to Richard’s story, I thought “Wow. This is amazing.” I now call this the “wow” test. Whenever I find something inspiring that makes me go “wow”, I write it down as a story for a future talk.

Use your own experience to inspire

Another way to make even deeper connections is to share your own inspirational stories. This helps you become a more authentic speaker. Your story could come from your hobby. In 2010, I completed an Ironman triathlon in 36C (97F) heat which included a 3.8km swim (2.4miles), 180km bike ride (112 miles) and finished with a marathon. It was by far the hardest physical challenge I ever faced. When I told a friend about the race, he said, “So what does triathlon mean? Tri-not-to-die?!” Although the Ironman is a tough race, I learned from the experience of training consistently for over a year and pushing through the heat and physical discomfort during the race.

Such an experience could reinforce a point in a talk. For example, I could use my 12-month training regime to illustrate the message that small consistent steps can overcome seemingly huge obstacles. Or I could use the heat as a metaphor for the challenges we all face along the way to achieving something worthwhile. Look for ways to connect your inspirational story to your big idea. Practice delivering your story in under five minutes clearly stating how it links to your big idea.

Find your “wows”. What are you doing that you take for granted but other people think is amazing? A single mother bringing up four children has a wealth of insights, experiences and wisdom that could benefit many people. Your work, family, hobbies, achievements, failures, where you spend most of your time, where you would like to spend most of your time are all sources for inspirational insights.

Be open to finding your stories.If you carry around a phone with a camera, take pictures of newspaper clippings that inspire you or capture scenes from your life that you can use in your next presentation. Use your phone’s recorder to capture ideas and re-listen to them so that you remember to work them into a talk or develop them into five minute modules.

Poll shows university students attention span is 10 minutes

attention-problem While I am coaching senior executives, I often mention that an audience’s attention span is around 10 minutes. This means that when you deliver a business presentation you need to continually engage and interact with the audience.

Here is an article in the Times of India that shows another reason why younger audiences’ suffer from short attention spans. Read more.

What can a marshmallow tell you about your audience?


Whether you like marshmallows or not, a four-year-old child certainly does. What’s not to like? Chewy, sweet, synthetic colorful lumps of candy.  But how long can a child go between a marshmallow?  This was tested in the 1960s and brainy psychologists worked out that the longer a child could hold out – the higher their IQ and generally well-roundedness later in life.

Daniel Goleman has suggested that an important component of emotional intelligence is a concept called “delayed gratification”. People who lack this trait are said to need instant gratification and may suffer from poor impulse control.

The need for instant gratification is a feature of digital natives regardless of whether they like marshmallows or not.  But what has this got to do with presenting?  You don’t need to be a insightful commentator to realise that the developed world is trending towards instant gratification.  We are continually informed with our mobile phones, blogs and now Facebook and Twitter (instant gratification of connectedness). Online shopping means we can continue when the shopping mall closes (some never do!)(instant gratification of consumption). Reality shows, Pop Idol imitations all contribute to this trend (instant gratification of popularity).

Back to presenting, what this means for you is that your audience is increasingly likely to expect a reward during your presentation. A reward? You mean just listening to my presentation is not enough to keep the audience happy?  Don’t they know how smart, witty and insightful I am?

So what rewards can you use with your demanding audience?  It doesn’t need to cost you anything. Let the audience be a part of the ‘journey’, let them take part and participate along with you as the guide. A presentation shouldn’t be a dump of information, it should be a joint discovery. If you ever feel that your presentations are becoming too predictable and canned, it’s time to change it up. Enjoy the journey!