The Crowd is Lava: Lessons on Presenting from a 3-Year-Old
There is wisdom in experience.
You need to imagine yourself saying that in your best Morgan Freeman voice.
True. Years toiling away in the trenches, perfecting your communications skills counts for something. Perhaps you’re a pro. Perhaps you command the stage. But, let’s not kid ourselves, we could all improve.
Here’s the thing. One of my go-to presentation gurus is my 3-year-old. He’s a pint-sized attention getter unhindered by the pressures of adult life, the constraints of the rules of grammar or situationally-appropriate clothing.
We can learn a lot from him and others of his kind. I should add that he does not yet get paid for the experiential training he provides.
Scream “Watch me!” and deliver.
This boy always has a plan to get my focus, maybe not always well conceived, but there’s a plan. He simply demands it: “Mom, watch me!” And I do, because he always delivers something—whether a ninja kick, an attempt at break dancing, or his best impression of me.
Like the little dancing ninja (actually pronounced “minja” in my house), you need a plan to get and keep your audience’s attention. Let your audience know to pay attention because it will pay off for them.
“Listen closely. In the next five minutes you’re going to learn how to BLANK.”
Tell them what’s to come, deliver exactly that and they’ll tune in more closely. You’ve proven yourself.
Use simple language to get to your point.
In front of an audience, don’t clutter your message with extra, cumbersome vocabulary or unnecessary politeness.
“I would like some frozen dairy dessert.” NO … No you wouldn’t. YOU WANT ICE CREAM!
Subject, verb, noun. More, and longer, words don’t translate into you appearing smarter. Try using language like: “This project does three things … A, B, and C.”
People will engage when they understand you. When they grasp what you’re saying, that will reflect positively on you and your organization.
Can you imagine a 3-year-old just STANDING STILL behind a podium? No? No you can’t, because it’s never going to happen.
Please don’t do this. Move out from behind the podium. We know your laptop is there or your notes, but you know this stuff! Right? Wait, what??? Well, go back and prepare. If you have to, just check in every couple minutes with your notes.
You see, while you’re looking down at the podium or back up at the screen, the crowd is looking at their phones. You’re losing them …
Be strategically funny.
My kid keeps me laughing and it’s almost always a positive thing. He’s not afraid to be silly. His inhibitions haven’t caught up with him yet. Let some of yours go in order to tell a good story.
Do relate a funny story that ties into your content.
Do NOT ask your audience: “Can you smell that?” (The boy always cracks himself up after asking this.)
THIS. THIS RIGHT HERE. He takes risks. I hear it’s part of his development. So, I let him jump on the bed, and from couch to couch (the floor is lava after all), etc., etc. and his eyes light up when he does.
Try something new in your presenting. Don’t use PowerPoint. Play a game. Don’t talk as much. Heck, sing a few bars. Walk through the audience. Pretend you don’t care what they think for a few minutes.
The thrill of a great presentation will have you yelling, “Hey, Ma! Look what I can do!”