This month’s post
How time became our enemy…
We live at a time of exponential explosion in all forms of existence. Everything grows, increases, in quantity as well as in pace: technology, opportunities, wealth, living conditions, consumerism. Leaving aside ethical considerations, let’s focus instead on facts: with this explosion, our attitudes change. We want it all, and we want it now. We can’t bear doing without something, or having to wait for it.
What we forget, in our lust for instant gratification, is the time or the pace inherent in creating anything. A career, a work of art or a relationship take time. And it’s not just that we need to learn that patience is a virtue, but that the very fact of making something comprises stages that cannot be skipped. This involves solid, viable, well-formed components, to ensure an enduring result; experience of what works and what doesn’t; and the existential lessons that go with the creative act – why we do it, how we do it, with whom we do it etc…
Of course, this also applies to presenting. Becoming a good presenter is not just a matter of technique or length of service, it’s also about the situations and experiences we’ve had the privilege to live through.
Presenter of the Month
A marriage of opposites?
Please welcome Jim Carrey, making a commencement address to M.U.M. graduates. Obviously, Jim is a successful professional performer and his status allows him to do pretty much whatever he wants.
Be that as it may, watch how his humour and crazy style, via the play of contrasts, reinforce the seriousness of his speech. After all, the core of his presentation is eminently spiritual and what becomes clear is that his jokes, his personal stories carry us along and that we emerge happy, motivated, with a very simple message in our hearts and minds: “Let’s be ourselves effortlessly, let’s smile and be bold, because that’s the best thing with can do for others and ourselves”.
What’s in it for you?
Observing others to know ourselves better
“Everything needs to be done from the audience’s perspective” – you’ve heard us say this again and again as this, we argue, is the bedrock of a successful presentation. Let’s zoom in on the process, however, for it has an unexpected outcome…
The need to identify as precisely as possible the concerns of one’s prospective audience leads us to be curious about these long before we’re due to design our presentation – which tends to be at the last minute. Gradually, we catch ourselves observing people whenever the chance arises: when they speak, when they don’t, what they write, what they say in meetings or around the coffee machine… Every detail adds a stroke to the big inner picture we’re painting to help us learn about others. In so doing, we’re therefore more interested in studying our potential or future audience than in spouting forth to impress. In effect, we’re being less egocentric.
And because we’re a bit less self-centred, others’ attitudes, beliefs, qualities, faults, behaviours… can be a mirror for us. As we stand back and look, we recognise some of these characteristics in ourselves, at different times. Observing others, then, is to know oneself better. QED. And then it’s up to each of us to make of it what we will!
It happened to them first
It doesn’t take much to be instantly effective
Laurence W. is a manager with one of the major phone operators in Belgium. Having recently attended Winning Hearts and Minds, she was tasked by her boss to argue a somewhat tricky case before the executive committee. Here is how she went about preparing for that…
“The first thing I knew I needed to do was to set myself a very specific objective. In this instance, it was to reassure the executive committee, and get their agreement regarding a particular action plan.
Then I sat at my desk, aiming to be as concise as possible, ensuring that I wasn’t distracting my audience with parasitic PowerPoint slides, and creating an impactful hook. As I was finishing crafting my presentation, I put myself in the shoes of the audience to ensure that my last words would enable them to remember a clear and simple message. My presentation wasn’t long so I was able to learn it by heart and rehearse it several times.
An hour prior to entering the meeting room, I concentrated on my breathing to be sure to stay in control of my faculties. And when it was my turn to speak, I made eye contact with each person in order to create and maintain a connection.
The CEO ended the meeting by telling me that “it was very clear”, while my boss, taking me aside, suggested I gave some advice to my colleagues on how to “structure a presentation”… Upon which I replied that I’d been trained by experts!”.
Eat well, speak well
A presentation is a performance. Obviously, your mind is involved in the process, but so is your body, and to an even greater extent! Let’s look, therefore, at one of the elements that provides our physical vehicle with energy – food, and at a crucial time of the day: the morning.
We’ve been taught that the ideal morning fare, in this latitude, consists of “some dairy, bread or cereals, a piece of fruit and a drink”. Yet this type of breakfast – aka ‘continental’ – sends our blood sugar levels rocketing: dairy, bread, jam, cereals all turn to glucose through digestion. To deal with this deluge of sugar, the pancreas produces massive amounts of insulin, which results in low blood sugar around 11am! Hard to be a star performer when you’re starving and your energy level is at rock bottom…
For a successful performance, then, it is necessary to consume proteins at breakfast. This avoids low blood sugar levels, and provides the energy you need throughout the day. The benefits? Three in one: you eat less at lunchtime, your presentation will take place during your energy peak, and you may even lose some weight! Morning proteins could include, for example: eggs, smoked salmon, ham, cheese, seeds, or nuts. Throw in a bit of salad on the side, with a honey dressing for a hint of sweetness and you’re away!
And what else?
To each his own “crastination”
Written by a professor in marketing and psychology, Drunk Tank Pink presents a series of scientific experiments on various topics from various countries. We discover the extent to which a colour, a context or apparently insignificant aspects of an environment can have surprising and counter-intuitive consequences on individuals. Here is an example:
Random memory tests were done in an Australian supermarket on a group of customers, at different times and on different days. The researchers found that, controlling for all other variables, onovercast days the subjects remembered three times more items than on sunny days. The scientists put forward the following explanation: “Human beings are biologically predisposed to avoid sadness and respond to low moods by looking for opportunities to feel happy. Conversely, happiness gives the signal that all is well, that the environment holds no imminent danger and that there is therefore no immediate need for deep thought nor alertness.”
Drunk Tank Pink and other unexpected forces that shape how we think, feel and behave, Adam Alter, Penguin Books, 2014.
Najberg Milne News
To boldly go…
A few months after the start of our collaboration with ESA (European Space Agency), Najberg Milne is about to enter into an agreement with a major French audio-visual organisation…Another signal that excellence in oral communication is taken seriously by the corporate world. To be continued…!
Link of the month
Happiness: again and always
In his energetic TED talk below, Shawn Achor offers us a fact which, if properly embraced, would cause huge changes in our lives (personal as well as professional).Namely, that it’s not our successes that bring happiness, but our happiness that creates our successes.