Power Tools of Presenting

You may think that to be an effective speaker, you need plenty of data to support your ideas, and a slick slide deck with all the bells and whistles. Think again.

In 2015, I had the honor of coaching the seven speakers at Corning Incorporated’s UP2 Women’s Conference. Those talks were videotaped and can be viewed by Corning employees on the company’s intranet site. I also gave a talk at the conference, and it is viewable by the public:

What I think you will see, in whichever videos you can access, is that it is actually your voice, your body, and your story that are the power tools of presenting.

Let me share with you the reasons that’s true with another example.

Back in 2016, I facilitated an all-day workshop for the Food Bank of the Southern Tier designed to help their whole staff craft memorable elevator speeches capturing the essence of the Food Bank’s mission. After learning how to access the power of their voices, bodies, and stories, several employees were nominated by their peers to share their elevator speeches with the rest of us.

I remember one guy telling about a little boy willing to wait in line with only a thin coat to protect him from the freezing temperatures at a mobile food pantry site, because he wanted a birthday cake, not for himself, but for his dad.

I remember another employee describing an older gentleman in a suit who stopped at the Food Bank administrative building because he had lost his job and couldn’t afford to buy food. The employee told the gentleman where the nearest pantry was, and as she watched him walk back to his car, his shoulders shook with silent sobs.

I remember hearing about an employee’s first bone-jarring ride in a delivery truck with old springs, and how the employee’s discomfort didn’t seem as important on the way home after seeing how much the people at the food pantry appreciated the help.

Why do I remember these stories years later? Because stories are remembered up to 22 times more often than facts alone. Stories are the way we relate to one another. They activate our limbic/emotional systems, not just our cognitive/intellectual systems…and when we FEEL, we remember better.

By creating pictures in our minds, stories are easier to recall than facts and figures. Plus, these Food Bank elevator speeches revealed what was important to the speakers, and reminded me of what’s important to me as the listener—human dignity, generosity, the power to overcome adversity, light in the dark.

None of the people telling stories that day were marketing people. None of them were professional speakers. None of them were poets or authors or actors. None of them had fancy slides or high tech tools. But by the end of that workshop, they were incredibly effective persuaders.

That’s because in addition to telling stories, they had learned to focus on details, drawing audiences in via all five senses. They used their whole bodies—gestures, facial expressions, movement—so that they engaged the mirror neurons of their listeners, driving their elevator speech deep into the listeners’ nervous systems. They learned to use dialogue, questions, and metaphors to make their talks compelling and memorable. And most importantly, they were genuine, and told stories that were important to them.

Intrigued? Ready to amp up your next presentation with the power tools of presenting—your voice, body and story? Let’s talk!