Wednesday, June 24, 2015

7 and a Half Ways to Make Your Information Matter

If you're a regular person with a regular job living a regular life, chances are the only times you get asked to speak is to share straight information. Sales data, new product information, company reports - if you're lucky maybe training for new employees, or teaching new technology to the current staff. Even client sales presentations, if you aren't careful, can become massive information dumps.

Information isn't inherently bad. In fact, it is the core of any presentation, the essence of why a presentation must be made. Too much information, superfluous information, and information presented in a boring fashion, however - that's bad.

7 1/2 Ways to Make Your Information Matter

1. Simplify - you probably know what you're talking about, because you deal with it all the time. Your audience may not be as versed as you, however, and treating them like they are will leave them in a daze. Use accessible vocabulary - watch your industry jargon and define your acronyms. If they can't comprehend what you're saying as you say it, they'll get hung up, and you'll find them nowhere near where you're trying to take them by your conclusion.

2. Chunk It Down - once you've simplified your word choices, simplify your conceptual organization. Instead of bulldozing ahead with everything you have, or indiscriminately weaving from topic to topic like an out of control bundle of computer code, organize your information. Create a structure for your talk that will serve your audience, not your knowledge base or your ego. example: if you're talking about Theodore Roosevelt, keep your talk focused on a purpose (time period in his life, his political philosophy, or his family life), and make sure all you're including leads to that purpose.

3. Organize by Relevance - much like the top-down style of a classic newspaper article, start with what they need to know most, first, and fill in the details after. If they see the end result, the big idea, up front, they will be more attentive to the process it takes to get there.

4. Compare - either to a straight up competing product or service, to a similar device or concept, or to the item or process you're replacing/upgrading. By providing a reference point they understand, that is, accessing their old information, it will make your new information easier for them to handle.

5. Pictures, not Numbers - numbers, statistics, and hard data in general don't work well when displayed or spoken, in terms of memorability. If they are linked to pictures or simple charts, they become easier to assimilate. example: Instead of 'we sold 5,254,326 more hamburgers this year over last year, a 52.6 percent increase' as a verbal only statement, or as stark numbers on a screen, consider a graphic of a small stack and a bigger stack of burgers side by side in combination with the verbal statistic.

6. Use Humor - this goes for pretty much any presentation of any type. Humor done right builds connection and opens minds. Anchoring information in a humorous story is going to make it a lot more memorable than a straight-up information dump. example: telling someone about how you got your tongue stuck on the flagpole in kindergarten is a sure way to help them remember the concept of thermal conductivity.

7. Leave Behind - your information is important, which is why you're sharing it. It's also likely very specific, and may be so specific that you don't want to leave any room for error. Create a leave-behind that has your statistics, your research, your sources, even your slides, to give to folks AFTER your presentation. Giving it before opens the door for them to open the door, and walk out on you - either mentally or physically.

7.5. Notes Handout - unlike the leave behind, this is basically a combination of blank scratch paper and a partially filled out map of your presentation. Put blank lines, or partial sentences with key words to fill in, on a page or two and hand out at the beginning. You don't give too much away to begin with, while still giving an implied promise that you'll be giving enough information that notes should be taken.

If you want their full attention, tell them at the beginning not to take notes, that you have a leave behind - but be aware you might lose the attention of a few at that point, if they think they have permission to not pay attention.

Most of us do live a regular life. A lot of speaking advice, articles, and trainings, heck, even this blog, can overly-geared toward motivational/inspirational/storytelling type presentations. This isn't all bad - because much of the concepts in that type of speaking can be brought over to the 'regular life' of information sharing, sales-oriented, training type speaking that may be more prominent in your circles.

And vice-versa.

Take ALL the information...and then go out and Speak...& Deliver!

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