Yesterday's Presentation Zen blog (damn I wish I'd thought of that name first!) features an excellent post discussing valuable tidbits from the book The Cluetrain Manifesto. What caught my eye is one point that has been the subject of blogosphere discussion lately on the topic of presenting and speaking in a true, authentic voice:
(7)"Learning to speak with a human voice is not a parlor trick. It can't be 'picked up' at some tony conference."
You can learn a lot from presentation coaches and communication books, but this is not rocket science. We can be much better by simply looking at the presentation as an opportunity to have a conversation with others about something we care about. All the technique, training, and "PowerPoint" tricks are useless if the talk doesn't come from your gut, from your heart and soul.
Amen to that! One of the pitfalls of PowerPoint is that too many unsure presenters use it in a vain attempt to hide their nervousness with public speaking. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: PowerPoint is NOT A CRUTCH! If you can't do your presentation without it, you need to rewrite your talk.
And the truth is that, even if you take a header off the podium into some hapless listener's lap or your computer goes all Blue Screen of Death-y during your talk, no one will care if you just talk to them "from your heart and soul."
As Lee Hopkins pointed out in a recent article, presentations, bloging and the rest of it all are about communicating with passion (it's even his own personal tagline). Or, as my former sales manager told me, "Your audience is never going to be more excited about your product than YOU are!"
So how do you find your voice? How do you come to be able to present with passion?
I'll share with you an invaluable technique that Amy Gahran shared with me a few months back, to which I credit my podcasting seminar's rapidly growing success. See, the thing is that while I do love to talk, writing has always been a chore for me. From articles to seminars, sitting down to write always took enormous amounts of discipline.
So she suggested I carry a voice recorder with me to record article, seminar, podcast and blog ideas. And I was to talk to record the idea... and then keep talking. Run it through. Even if I was saying, "Meh... naw... this is a stupid idea... that won't work... " etc. Eventually I'd discover that at moments, the pace of my voice would quicken; I'd be stumbling over my own words in my haste to get them out! I'd say things like, "yeah; YEAH!" and keep talking.
It's what she calls an "aha!" moment--the moment when your passion takes over your idea, and you get into it. These are the ideas that I would race home to write about, that I just couldn't wait to share with an audience!
That is how you find your voice and your passion--take the time to see what you're excited about. If you're not excited about your product or service right now, start talking into that voice recorder. Within a week, I bet you will have found an aspect of it that you just can't wait to share with an audience.