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Effective Presentations works with the movers and shakers in virtually any industry.

We’ve all been there—you’ve worked hard on your presentation and you know it like the back of your hand. But when the moment comes to begin that presentation, you aren’t sure where to begin. So, what comes out? Perhaps something like this:

“Hi everyone, thanks for being here. Today I’m going to be talking about ‘Topic A,’ which includes point 1, point 2, and point 3. Let’s go ahead and get started.”

That’s a fine introduction…but it’s one that everyone has heard before, time and time again. You want to stand out from the crows—not just another PowerPoint! Use something more powerful to open up your presentations.

Power Openings

Why not start off with a hook or an attention-getter? When your audience is greeted with a rhetorical question, a startling statistic, or a concept to contemplate right off the bat, they are more likely to engage with the rest of your presentation. The anticipation level of each audience member should be very dynamic, and not taper off. You can ensure this is the truth with a strong, powerful opening.

Some Examples:

If you are giving a presentation on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, here a few ways you could begin your introduction with more “oomph:”

These are so much more engaging than “Hello, my name John Doe, and today I will be teaching you how to make a PB & J sandwich.”

Power Closes

How about ending your presentation?

Many of us hear and use the typical: “well, that’s all I have for you today. Thank you for being here; let me know if you have any questions.” And if it’s a virtual presentation, it follows with 30 seconds of awkward waving trying to leave the meeting!

Try these options instead:

The Bookend Close: To close a speech using the bookend method, you need to bring the entire speech full circle. Refer back to your original opening or challenge. Tell them again the important points. Remember, if you tell them enough times, they’ll have a better chance to get it!

The Challenge Close: You may want to challenge your audience to get off the sideline and take action. Challenge them to do something spectacular or to get out of their comfort zone.

The Echo Close: This is a very effective way to get your audience to remember your presentation. It can be used in combination with other power closes. Focus on a single word or phrase that will reinforce your call to action. Create the sound bite that continues to reverberate in their heads and moves them to action.

People will remember the last thing you say, and the first impression you left. The Power Opening & Close should be your biggest priority when creating an out-of-this-world presentation!

Introverts: Working From Home Works

If someone had told us five years ago that 40 percent (or more) of the American labor force would be working from home in 2020, I don’t know that we would have believed them.

Sure, the number of people working partially or fully remote has been climbing for years now. But until Covid-19 hit, the upward trend was gradual.

Today, and perhaps for many more months still, we’re navigating a “new normal” while we run our businesses remotely, with team members connected solely through email, phone, and video conferencing.

For some, the change has been a hard adjustment; people who thrive in busy work environments find it difficult to stay focused at home, and they crave the human interaction they get from checking in at the office every day.

For others, having the option to sometimes work from home gives them the work-life balance they need and saves them from a daily commute five days a week.

In fact, according to a recent State of Remote Report by Buffer, 98 percent of people surveyed said they’d like to work remotely—at least some of the time—permanently.

That brings us to the group of people who’ve wholeheartedly embraced working from home: introverts.

Introverts Can Succeed in the Workplace

It’s estimated that introverts make up as much as 40 percent of the population, yet there’s still a common misconception that introverts are shy, withdrawn, and socially anxious people.

Compared to extroverts who are typically loud, outgoing, and enthusiastic, introverts may appear quiet, passive, and withdrawn.

What people may not realize, however, is introverts are just as outgoing and enthusiastic. What sets them apart from extroverts are the way they gain energy.

Introverts “recharge” by spending time alone; extroverts gain energy from social interaction. But when it comes to business, introverts are just as capable of succeeding in the workplace.

In fact, some would argue introverts are better business people because they listen more than they speak. And we all know how important listening is to effective communication.

So if you identify as an introvert who prefers to spend time in smaller groups, the transition to a largely digital world in the midst of a global pandemic works in your favor. You can succeed in the workplace just by working the way you’ve always wanted to.

This is where you shine. You excel in situations where you connect one-on-one or in smaller groups. You’re no longer competing to be heard over the extroverts; you feel more comfortable to speak up to share your ideas.

You may not be the best public speaker, but your listening skills and ability to ask good questions make up for it. That gives you an advantage, especially in sales and marketing, where listening is always better than talking.

Tips to Succeed in a Virtual World

Introverts, you’ve been preparing your entire life for this. Never before have we seen ourselves in a position where company meetings have been forced to take place over Zoom or Google Hangouts, and more communication has to happen over the phone or through email and text.

As someone who prefers these methods of communication, you’re in a position to show just how valuable having an introvert on the team can be.

Here are 3 ways introverts working from home can excel:

Stay connected. Now that you and your colleagues are no longer working in a shared space, you have to establish strong connections in other ways. Working from home means you put an effort into making sure you all know where you are on a project or task.

It’s a good idea to come up with a plan to communicate with your boss, manager, or others on your team daily, even if it’s just to check in or give an update on your progress. It could be as simple as a phone call or an email. Whatever method you choose, be consistent. Don’t call only when there are problems; set up a time regularly to ask or invite questions.

By setting up these connection points, you’ll build trust among your colleagues and your boss. The communication will also go a long way to eliminate mistakes and misunderstandings because you’re staying connected and setting a system in which questions can be asked in a timely manner.

Take Initiative. As impressive as technology is, there are still a lot of challenges associated with working remotely. One of the biggest is communicating effectively.

Here’s an opportunity for you to find ways for your team to communicate better. Or you could suggest virtual processes that can help the business operate more efficiently while everyone is separated.

As an introvert, you may not always be recognized as a leader, and that’s a shame. A research study conducted by Harvard Business Review actually showed that introverts in business are more effective leaders in complex and unpredictable settings. Has there been a more complex or unpredictable setting than Covid-19 in 2020?

Furthermore, the brain of an introverted person is wired to value productivity over recognition, which means you’re motivated by productivity rather than ambition. That’s beneficial to businesses struggling through the pandemic.

Be comfortable on camera. It’s not necessarily true that all introverts dislike public speaking. I’d wager the number of introverts who dislike talking on camera matches the number of all people who prefer not to do it.

However, video conferencing is now a commonplace substitute for in-person meetings, so if you’re an introvert working from home, you might as well learn how to do it well.

Not only that, but video marketing continues to grow by leaps and bounds. As a business owner who’s looking to expand or diversify your marketing, you have to get comfortable with being on camera.

Here’s what we recommend to get you started: Go through your message several times out loud until you’re comfortable with what you want to say. Then turn on the camera and do a practice run delivering your presentation. Do this before your actual presentation so you can play it back and see for yourself what you look and sound like.

For many people, the thought of being on camera is worrisome because they’re concerned with how they look—just like in a live presentation.

By recording yourself first, you can see exactly what your audience sees and—hopefully—you’ll realize your on-camera performance isn’t as bad as you think.

Every chance you have to talk to the camera will help alleviate the anxiety around doing it. And when the time comes to really deliver your presentation, you won’t feel so nervous.

In Business, Being an Introvert is Good

If you’re an introvert, working remotely has probably been a welcome change from reporting to an office every day, where the setting doesn’t match your personality.

Here’s your chance to demonstrate all the ways being introverted can serve your business and benefit its productivity. Until now, it may not have been obvious to the people you work with.

Introvert or not, we’re all social creatures who need human interaction to survive. Introverts just don’t need to interact with so many other people at once to boost their energy levels.

By putting a greater emphasis on one-to-one connections to brainstorm or have ad hoc discussions, you eliminate the noise that goes along with bigger group meetings that sometimes aren’t very productive. And that’s always good for business.

Authentic Communication in a Pandemic World

The challenge to be an effective communicator in our COVID-19 pandemic world is not as much about what you say but getting people to listen.

Isolation, distractions, and fluid circumstances make it hard for people to focus on one thing, let alone pay attention to you. Passive listening is more prevalent as video call participants check email and social media accounts during calls. Non-verbal cues that help us communicate and understand each other are obscure. It is hard to get feedback from a participant who turns off their video. Now we must frame our words more carefully and be more intentional about listening.

Even in person, communicating with other people is more complicated. Masks and social distancing make for awkward in-person interactions. When we can be present with others, making strong connections while standing six feet apart remains difficult. For some, not being able to hug a friend prompts negative internal emotions.

One thing that remains the same is our need for authentic human connection. For most people, isolation is challenging. Disruption of usual relational patterns tests the strength of friendships. Our people may not be available anymore.

If you ask me what most people crave above everything else, I will say that it is authentic relationships.

Authentic relationships require authentic communication. Authentic communicators engage in learning about themselves, others, and how to make meaningful connections that result in effective communication. The most effective communication happens when two or more people are authentic communicators.

Interact Truthfully with Others

Authentic communicators convey the truth about what they are thinking, feeling, choosing, or doing. They are excellent communicators and conversationalists. They are open to new ideas and seek to understand other people without feeling threaten or defensive. There is mutual respect without judgmental stereotypes. They are curious and take time to listen. Their words seek to inspire rather than control or belittle. Authentic communicators have an advantage over the manipulative and self-promotion games people play. Other authentic people will want to be around and converse with you.

How to Be an Authentic Communicator

You can take steps to become a more authentic communicator by doing three things.

Consider Your Level of Personal Authenticity

When you feel good about yourself, possess self-confidence, and determine what is important to you, communication gets more authentic. The need to impress others for selfish gain or overcome insecurities melt away. Authentic communicators hold healthy views about themselves and avoid falling for relational games other people play.

Think More About Others

Not everyone interprets communication the same way. Something might make sense to you and be meaningless to another person. Understanding how other people interpret information and emotion will provide clarifying insight into their personality. Taking time to understand their values uncovers what is meaningful to them. Together, this information provides insight into what motivates them.

Craft a Message That Will Connect

Your messages consist of content and delivery. Structure your words in ways that resonate with others. Address your listeners’ concerns the way they want to hear it. Speaking about what is meaningful to them will give them a reason to listen. Your delivery and other non-verbal expressions are crucial to ensure that others hear what you say. Your movement should support your message and draw others into your words. Making your message hard to listen to because it is poorly structured or delivered gives any audience an immediate reason to dismiss you.

Authenticity Requires Work on Your Part

Authentic people have healthy self-identities that do not require them to withhold information, hide their emotions, divert attention, or play meaningless relational games. Gaining and maintaining a healthy self-identity requires work each day; it is a personal growth process. Those with healthy self-identities do not need others to inform their view of themselves but find value and purpose from within that overflows into authentic relationships.

Everyone makes mistakes and needs to receive some grace. Perhaps some of us need a lot of forgiveness even when we do not deserve it. If we care about authentic connection and deep relationships, we must hold space for each other with a curious mind and open heart.

Authenticity is hard when others are quick to judge. While we need to protect ourselves from those who will harm us, we can risk being authentic to see if it finds a willing partner.

The Difference Between Authenticity and Transparency

Many people become uncomfortable when placed into situations requiring self-disclosure. People generally want to be known by others and know the person they interact with regularly. Challenges occur when others probe too quickly or deeply into sensitive topics or when a person engages in behavior that erodes trust.

Authentic communicators want to be accurate and forthcoming in all situations to reach every audience every time. Transparent communicators are more vulnerable and need to choose their audiences carefully. While transparency provides rich communication, it should be appropriate for the situation.

For many people, stepping into authenticity creates a sense of fear. Authenticity improves communication because it frees the speaker to say what is on their mind and heart. At the same time, the thought of being authentic may produce paralyzing fear. The audience’s unknown reaction can prompt feelings of inadequacy that can lead anyone to shrink from the challenge.

Fear can be healthy. Fear keeps us humble and can steer us away from bad situations. Treat your angst as warning signs about what you believe about yourself, your audience, and your message. Guard against allowing negative past experiences or lies you hold to prevent you from being an authentic communicator.

Changing Methods of Communication

Authentic communicators can adapt to any form of communication or audience type. Listeners will pay attention to effective, authentic communicators. Whether you are presenting live or online, facilitating a group discussion, providing instruction, contributing within a team, or engaging in a conversation, your ability to communicate authentically will prompt others to listen and move them to action.

Steve Tonkin is the author and trainer of Authentic Communicator. A one-day training event offered exclusively through Effective Presentations.

The Value of Storytelling

Research has shown that messages delivered through a story can be as much as 22 times more memorable than facts alone. That’s because wrapping facts and figures in a story makes the listener hear your message in a more meaningful way.

When you use storytelling in your business presentations, you tap into the natural way humans communicate. We’re inclined to act on messages that appeal to our emotions: fear, anger, sadness, frustration, and joy. Delivering statistics on their own doesn’t elicit any emotional responses. Tying those statistics to something that matters to your listener does.

The fact that storytelling has been around since humans first walked the earth is proof that storytelling is important. Even before the invention of any alphabet, humans have been verbally telling stories or using images to tell them. It’s how we relate to each other and the world around us.

Why is Storytelling Important?

Research has shown stories persuade others and shape how they see you. Using storytelling in your business is the single greatest tool you have to win over others.

A well-told story can move people to take action or even further your career. With one story, your audience can tell what you value, the customs you engage in, and how knowledgeable you are on a subject.

The value of storytelling is immeasurable when you consider how far it goes to show how passionate you are about a topic and how genuine you are.

All of this feeds into what your audience is really after: something meaningful to them.

When you build a connection with your listeners through storytelling, they’re willing to accept the facts you present because they see how those facts play out in relatable scenarios. They see how and why it matters to them.

There’s an Anecdote in Your Pocket

Stories are all around us. But the best stories are the ones from within us.

Using a personal anecdote is a clever and effective way to use storytelling in your business presentations. An anecdote is a short story with a point about a real person or event that you can use to entertain or to launch into something deeper.

Like any great story, your anecdote has to be relevant to your topic. For example, you wouldn’t step on stage and start talking about your latest visit to the doctor unless there was something about the visit that related to your presentation.

You would, however, use an anecdote to introduce a thought, concept, or fact. This could mean talking about a time you struggled and persevered, or talking about a time you tried and failed. Audiences love to hear stories they can relate to, and who among us hasn’t tried and failed at one time or another?

The beautiful thing about anecdotes is that they pop up all the time, everywhere you go. Think back to the last time you ventured out with your kids or had a funny mishap at work.

Your entire day is made up of anecdotes and stories. You just have to figure out how you can use them in your presentations to bring your message to life.

The Stories That Matter

Christopher Booker, the author of “The 7 Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories,” says a story will always fall into one of seven storylines:

What’s important for you to remember is that the people in your audience are all going through one of these plot types as they sit and listen to you. So not only is storytelling important; so is having more than one story you can tell.

Ideally, you’ll have a story that fits each plot type so you can pick and choose which one to tell depending on the audience and the situation.

What do these stories look like? Here are some examples:

Overcoming the Monster – The hero must defeat the villain to restore balance. In movies, this is the plot for “Jurassic Park.” In real life, the “monster” can be illness, addiction, or anything else that you had to defeat.

Rags to Riches – The underdog comes out on top after their natural talents shine through. In movies, this is the plot for “Annie.” In real life, you may be the “underdog” who started with nothing and worked hard to become a well-respected expert in your field.

The Quest – The hero must defeat evil (sometimes more than one) despite the odds, but ultimately wins. In movies, this is the plot for “Apocalypse Now.” In real life, your experience as an entrepreneur is a quest story all of itself.

Voyage and Return – An average person is thrown into a strange world from which they must return. In movies, this is the plot for “Cast Away.” In real life, you can use the voyage and return story to demonstrate how you can help your clients get something under control or return to normal after an upheaval.

Comedy – The main character must resolve some form of confusion that resulted in misadventure so they can move ahead. In movies, this is the plot for “Groundhog Day.” In real life, the “confusion” could simply be a series of bad decisions that led to a conundrum that required someone else’s intervention.

Tragedy – A character experiences something painful and harrowing. In movies, this plot is typically coupled with another (like rebirth). We see it in movies such as “Titanic.” In real life, everyone has a tragic story, whether it’s a story of divorce, an accident, or death.

Rebirth – The main character’s fate seems unavoidable until a miraculous series of events turns things around. In movies, this is the plot for the “Sound of Music.” In real life, rebirth can come after realizing how your behavior threatened something in your life and how you needed to be pushed to make a change.

You Tell Stories Everyday

You tell stories all day, every day. You tell them to family. You tell them to friends. You tell them to your children. And they tell them to you.

The conversations you have with other people all make great stories for you to gather and then use to improve the way you use storytelling in your business presentations. They provide a way to humanize data and make your message more relatable to your audience.

More importantly, your stories are a way to make your message more memorable than simply reciting facts and figures.

By placing them in the context of stories and anecdotes that entertain and engage your audience, you’re ensuring your listeners will retain the information you provide.

Effective Presentations works with the movers and shakers in virtually any industry.
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