Earn it, care about it, and tell me a story
Although I have never attended a Dale Carnegie seminar on public speaking, I have found that his books are a treasure trove of wisdom and experience. While he did not discover the importance of connecting with an audience through authentic and personally-informed communication, Carnegie was able to convey these ideas in a powerful and compelling way.
In particular, three of Carnegie’s stand-out tips for a successful presentation are worth emphasizing:
1. Earn the right to talk about your subject. To me this idea captures the credibility that comes from experience, knowledge and practice. A high-stakes example is delivering a workshop on presentation and teaching skills, something I always approach with trepidation. Presenting about presenting, and teaching about teaching, means that as a facilitator, my own modeling of the subject needs to be outstanding in order to earn the group’s respect and engagement. I don’t think I’d be able to be successful in this without the years of experience I have spent “in the trenches” (e.g., this article on presenting in less-than-optimal surroundings).
2. Make sure that you are passionate – that you truly care – about your topic. My personal experience in the transformational impact that learner involvement and group energy can have makes it easy for me to convey my excitement about dynamic group facilitation and teaching. I know that transforming practice can make a meaningful difference in peoples’ personal and professional lives and careers, and that inspires me to want to inspire others.
3. Use clear and relatable illustrative stories to underline your key points. We are all hard-wired to respond to stories, and what better than our own experiences to communicate real-life applications and meaning behind important concepts or strategies?
I recently witnessed the impact of an inspirational teacher in my teenager’s volitional commitment to complete one hour of physics homework per day over the holidays. Did I mention that this is unprecedented and has been sustained with zero prompting on my part? The determination to master a complex and challenging subject is largely due to an outstanding teacher’s effectiveness in sparking interest and motivation in his students. From the teenager’s reports, this high school teacher brings years of experience in the field, loves everything to do with physics, and is not wanting for intriguing and off-the-wall examples.
What a powerful testimonial to the continuing relevance of Carnegie’s presentation tips: Subject mastery you’ve truly earned, passion for the topic, and good stories can all add up to a stellar experience for both audience and presenter.