How to stop being boring

Stop being boring when you give a presentation

I LOVE it when you send me questions based on my seminars and writings. I don’t mean ‘I like it a bit’, I mean I really love it – thank you, keep them coming!
FREE COACHING Every month, I take one question from my newsletter readers (you are signed up to my newsletter, aren’t you?!) and give them an hour’s free coaching as a thank you for the questions. March’s winner of the free coaching was Stephen, who works in Insurance. He asked me a question about changing people’s perception of you, which I’ll deal with in a future post.
The question most people asked was
‘How can I stop being boring when I present?’.
(Actually, most of you didn’t phrase it that way, but it was obvious what you meant!) 🙂
It’s a great question because being boring affects more than just presentations. It makes networking harder, salespeople less credible, meetings dull and can even ruin dates. Being boring can seriously damage your personal brand.
A couple of years ago (before I grew my beard!) I made a video about how to sound more interesting when you present, and you can view that here.
But actually being interesting, rather than boring is both simple and difficult.
Easy, because all you have to do is understand the world from someone else’s point of view, listen to them and when you do speak, speak to what’s interesting to them.
I’m always reminding my coaching clients ‘Nobody is interested in you – stop talking about yourself, talk about what matters to your audience’.
But it’s also difficult, because most of us, if we’re honest with ourselves, find it difficult to listen to other people – really listen. We find it tough to imagine that someone else’s ideas are as valid as our own. It’s really hard work to see the world from another person’s point of view.
So here are some things you can do:
In networking and meetings: Stop asking boring questions. If you ask boring questions, you get boring answers. Ask people about what matters to them – their ambitions, their week so far, things you might have in common, their opinions. In fact, the most interesting question you can ask someone else is usually ‘What do you think about …?’
Be interested, as well as interesting and start listening. Boring people talk – a lot. It’s not the talking that’s boring, it’s the fact that they’re not listening. Make a commitment to genuinely listen when people talk. You’ll be amazed at how much more interesting people find you!
All of us love to feel special, to feel like we’re valued, and we matter . When you really listen to other people, you are perceived as interesting because you’re interested in them.
Be ready. When you’re meeting people internally, or at networking events, you can usually predict most of what people are going to talk about – current work issues, what’s in the news and so on. And you know that someone is always going to ask ‘What do you do?’. Get ready for this. Have your rough elevator pitch ready, have some informed answers to industry problems, and have a quick look at the news before an event.
In Presenting: A rule of thumb for all my clients is: ‘Assume that your audience is tired, hungover and uninterested in you’. Make sure that you’re engaging them in various ways – not just by reading out some PowerPoint Slides! Think of props, video and music. If it’s appropriate to the environment, engage the audience in questions, quizzes and interactive exercises (I challenge myself to get the audience involved at least once every 10 minutes in all my own presentations).
Vocal variety. If you have time to practise your presenting, then focus on making your voice more interesting – changing the volume, tone and pace every so often. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as you’re changing things from time to time.
Pause. It’s counter-intuitive, but pausing often helps you to be more interesting as a presenter. I think it’s because when you stop talking the audience get the chance to think about what your presentation means to them  and this is automatically interesting.
Shake things up. Our attention  spans are short, and getting shorter. Think ‘small chunks’  – break your presentation into 2-3 minute sections and do something different in each one. Changing from pictures to text, on a slide for example can keep an audience’s interest.
Do without PowerPoint – at least sometimes. I know it’s scary. I know everyone expects it, but try and do without sometimes and see the difference. Even if you really need it, try the first 2 minutes of your presentation without it. Audiences want to get to know you. They can read slides for themselves. Doing your introduction without slides will really help you to be less boring!
Be tweetable. Audiences don’t like having to do any mental work, and will quickly find you boring if you make them concentrate a lot. Try and make your main messages and points ‘tweetable’ – easily and quickly understood.
Get your message right. The most important thing is to make sure that your message is right for the audience. I know – I really do – that this sounds simple, but failing to speak directly to what matters to an audience is the biggest mistake I see in presenting.
If you only talk about what matters to you, you will be a boring presenter.  If you make the effort to understand your audience and tailor your message to them, you will automatically become more interesting.
Think of your presentation from the audience’s point of view – ‘If I were watching this, what would I be getting out of it? Would the relevance be obvious to me? Would I feel like this is a good use of my time? Am I getting obvious and clear value from being here?’.
Use humour. I don’t recommend jokes, since they can easily backfire, but some gentle humour can do wonders. Shared industry stories, common problems that everyone’s facing, even an acknowledgement of how dreadful the coffee was can put a smile on an audience’s face.
Do a warm-up. Honestly, it’s not as embarrassing as it sounds. I’ll make a video about how to do it soon, but basically you want to increase your energy levels a bit so that you’re ready to present. Good warm-ups involve moving a bit (think arm-swinging and stretching!) and saying a few things out loud that are more interesting than everyday speech. Song lyrics and simple poems works well.
OBVIOUSLY, don’t do a warm-up in front of your audience!
There’s enough pain, misery and worry in the world as it is – don’t add to it with boring presentations and networking chats. Try some of the ideas in this post and let me know how you get on – I love hearing your stories.
And, as always, if you have any questions about your own sales, presenting, persuading or networking, do let me know. I choose one question each month and the winner receives an hour’s free coaching!
Hasta la PowerPoint!
Lee

 

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