“Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.” ~ Alfred A. Montapert
This quote reminds me of the challenge faced by many speakers and presenters. They confuse the act of talking in front of an audience [motion] with truly communicating and connecting [progress].
Far too many times, I’ve seen speakers walk off stage, only to be immediately met by a well-meaning audience member who says “That was GREAT!” I understand that the audience members who do this mean well, but they may be doing more harm than good by characterizing every speech they hear as “Great!”.
This is not to say that every speaker fails to communicate and connect – there are some terrific presenters who consistently make a difference. Suffice it to say though, that most speakers are not.
This problem begs the question, “How do you know if your presentation is successful?” Before you can answer this question, it is important that you define success. For some people, merely completing a talk without passing out, and being able to walk off stage on your own is a success. In that case, maybe it is a great speech.
But most speakers want more than mere survival. To help you create that feeling of success, take a cue from the late Dr. Stephen Covey, author of the Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. His second habit, Begin with the End in Mind, is where you should start creating your speech or presentation.
Remember, the purpose of any presentation should be to change the way people Think, Feel or Act, or a combination of these three. Think carefully about this, as your purpose is the lasting impact that your talk will have three days, three months or even three years after an audience hears you.
Once you determine your outcome, use this as your guidepost for every part of the speech. If your material adds to speech’s purpose, then leave it in; if not, take it out. For example, when I used to present a financial workshop – Long Term Care Planning – the goal was to persuade audiences to think differently about the problems they may face if a family member became ill for a long period of time. Then, they were asked to sign up for a meeting with our Long Term Care planning team to determine if they could help. There was no selling of products, or talk of other financial issues, just that one idea. This provided a clear message and action step that was simple for the audience to act on.
Are you providing a clear and concise message to your audience? Are you making it easy for them to Think, Feel or Act differently? As you prepare your next presentation, determine your outcome, how you want to impact your audience. This will enable you to create a message with purpose, and avoid “motion without progress.”
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