by Tim Brunson DCH
What is a great presentation? Many of our readers also do professional speaking. Others may occasionally find themselves giving talks. As a hypnotherapist, NLP and hypnotherapy trainer, as a former top training administrator for 40,000 American soldiers, and as professional speaker, I have some very definite ideas of the structure of phenomenal presentations. I've studied many of the most inspirational speeches of the Western civilization and reviewed numerous talks by talented presenters who command $10,000 to $20,000 per keynote. What I've learned is contrary to most conventional thought.
The best speeches violate the mold which is typically taught to neophyte speakers. Back when Neil Armstrong was taking the "giant step for mankind" in 1969, my high school speech teacher told us that a good speech has three components: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Back in the late 1970's we told our young officers and sergeants to "tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them." Even the U.S. Army got away from this A-B-C model in the late 1970's. However, at Toastmasters meetings I still hear that the age-old model is still the best way. So, what is a great speech?
For this article I'm going to concentrate the format of the most inspirational speeches of our time. Regardless, to a great extent my comments will apply to all presentations.
If I was to train a new speaker, I would start out by them just standing in front of a class or audience without saying a word. There would be no need to remember a speech. The only goal would be to make eye contact every individual in the room. While doing this I would advise the "speaker" to just focus on what they felt inside. At this point the only intent is to establish CONTACT and CONNECTION with the audience.
Regarding connection, a speaker must be able to communicate with all learning styles. This includes the slower paced kinesthetic learner, who appreciates slower paced words, and low, below the waist hand gestures. People with this learning style are the first with whom I connect. Next, I speed up my speech slightly, forming every word precisely, and using hand gestures at a level between the waist and chest, I bring the auditory learners on board. And, lastly I will raise my voice, quicken my speech, and use higher gestures to bring those ultra-fast visual learners into the fold. (Visual learners make up about 75% of the U.S. population and almost 100% of corporate leaders.) During the rest of the speech, I will vary my tone, speaking pace, and the range of my gestures so that I continually oscillate between the ways with which people of the various learning styles prefer to be communicated. You'll know if you have successfully connected by carefully noticing the physiology of the audience and if they seem to be focused on your every word.
The second major stage is developing EMPATHY. Even if your comments are intended to be rather biographical, the goal is to have each and every attendee to associate mentally into your story. When you talk about joy or misery, they are seeing it through your eyes, hearing through your ears, and feeling through your body. Essentially, they become one with you.
Believe it or not, the next stage is to ensure that your audience does not have a clue where you are going with your comments. Even if they are totally in synch with you, if they understand where you are going, you are on the road to giving a forgettable speech. They must not have a clear picture where you are going with your comments. By purposefully using confusion, ambiguity, and conscious overload, you reduce the influence of the "critical faculty" of the conscious mind and prepare the audience for the big message. At this point they are highly suggestible and are ready to be influenced at the deepest level of the mind. No, not everyone will appreciate this style. There will still be the 5 percent of the audience who will not feel comfortable with your departure from a predictable (and boring) presentation. Yet, as most adults over the age of 25 have fully developed frontal lobes behind their eyes, they generally get an enjoyable "ah-ha" experience when they finally figure it out for themselves. This self-discovery gives the more mature learners a pleasurable and unforgettable experience.
Well, I think that I just gave my punch line away. The next stage happens when they are on the verge of this self-discovery, with highly suggestible minds, and ready for you to make the most memorable statements of your talk. This is when you hear such things as "I have a dream", "Give me liberty or death", or "Ask not what your country can do for you." Like planting a flower seed, with out the right preparation of the audience, your desired intent will never blossom.
After this point, remember then to slow your speaking, lower your gestures, and lower your volume. You DO NOT want to upstage your own crescendo. This is a time to reduce the audience's stress and allow them to kinesthetically process your message. Let them down easy. You've just created a higher level of stress, now it is the time for leave them with an impression that you have made them feel changed but relaxed. If you ever want to be invited back, don't leave them with their "fight and flight" mechanisms intact. You want to be seen as a stress-reliever.
I'm fully aware that this process may not exactly meet every presentation need. But, if you give an inspirational speech with any other formula, you should not be surprised by your lack of success. Nevertheless, the principles of contact, speaking to multiple learning styles, balancing ambiguity and revelation, going from creating tension and stress to becoming a soothing and relaxing presenter is universal to all great presentation.
The A-B-C formula that I was taught back in sixties is obsolete, yet still prevalent in many management and speakers instruction. While it has served its role at one time, I have presented a much more powerful formula that has been used to inspire nations and change lives.
The International Hypnosis Research Institute is a member supported project involving integrative health care specialists from around the world. We provide information and educational resources to clinicians. Dr. Brunson is the author of over 150 self-help and clinical CD's and MP3's.