Leadership, Reputation and the Trade Secrets of World Class Presenters
[Second of a two-part article for healthcare leaders about mastering presentation skills. See also, Part One 10 Trade Secrets: How Exceptional Public Speakers Make It Look Easy]
Public speaking is something that everyone does, most people dread, and some speakers are world-class champs. The occasion can be as a keynote speaker for a major medical association meeting, or more frequently, the audience is smaller and more routine.
But physicians, hospital executives and healthcare marketing professionals understand that exceptional public speaking skills reflect on the individual’s reputation and personal image. They help communicate effectively, and persuade and convince. What’s more, successful speakers are often recognized as leaders in the profession.
Skilled presenters—individuals recognized and admired for their speaking abilities—usually work hard to make it look easy. Some individuals take it to the next level. They push past “good,” and develop the skills for “great.”
The first part of this article presented five of the trade secrets of exceptional speakers and how to prepare and present like a pro.
1. Master the fundamentals.
2. Channel anxiety into confident energy.
3. Have one, and only one, big idea.
4. You are the messenger, not the message.
5. Engage the mind through the heart.
Here are more of the trade secrets of world-class presenters:
6. The power of storytelling. Compelling (and emotion-laden) stories—where the audience can immediately relate—are a key component of successful presentations. The human brain is wired to process and understand information in story form. And a great story, producer Peter Guber says, is instant “emotional transportation” that connects, engages and persuades. Exceptional presentations evoke feelings of love, sadness, joy, surprise, hope and others.
7. Begin and end with a bang. Highly effective presentations are often structured with a three-slice structure of start-middle-finish. Great presentations—like every James Bond movie—blast off with a memorable and audience-involving opener. A gripping story, a thought-provoking question, or a shocking idea can be powerful launch pads.
Design the ending as carefully as the beginning. All that has gone into the presentation needs a strong wrap-up that the audience will carry away as a lasting impression. The total presentation is important, but the pros pay as much attention to their last sentence as they have paid to their first. Begin with the end in mind.
8. Catchphrase, but with care. “I have a dream…,” “Ask not what your country can do for you…,” “Read my lips…,” “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” Throughout history, many great—and truly memorable—speeches utilize a catchphrase. Success depends on the creative concept idea being brief and relevant. The chief caution is to use the catchphrase frequently enough to enhance and emphasize, but without excess or overuse.
9. Great stagecraft is subtle. Public presentations are, in part, a performance art. Clothing, body movement, hand gestures, tone of voice, pacing, posture and many other small but vital elements that are part of the presentation. World-class speakers carefully manage these elements of stagecraft to enhance their message and not detract from it. Skillfully done, the presentation feels personal and conversational to each member of the audience.
10. Study the masters. A skilled presenter makes their 18 minutes look easy and polished because they studied the craft. All have practiced (repeatedly), sometimes in front of a mirror, using an audio or video recorder, or with a colleague as a critical coach. In addition, top public speakers also study other skilled presenters. Although every speaker needs to find their own style and comfort zone, there’s value in identifying success techniques that work for top-notch presentations.
Watching actual, live-and-in-person presentations has advantages. But an online library of outstanding talks is readily available at the TED website. As one world-class example, we would point to a TED Talk by physician-author Abraham Verghese, Professor for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Stanford University Medical School.
In our era of the patient-as-data-point, Dr. Verghese believes in the old-fashioned physical exam, the bedside chat, the power of informed observation.
Modern medicine is in danger of losing a powerful, old-fashioned tool: human touch. Physician and writer Abraham Verghese describes our strange new world where patients are merely data points, and calls for a return to the traditional one-on-one physical exam.
You may want to watch this one more than once: Abraham Verghese: A doctor’s touch.