What can you learn from a woman, with a passion for story-telling and presenting?
You’ve probably read a lot of great blogs on how to deliver an engaging, exciting and meaningful talk or presentation and probably watched first hand many great speakers and thought ‘I can’t do that….’
I’m here to tell you that you can.
I started presenting from a very young age and even that early on I knew the secret to delivering a good presentation is simply…preparation. This might seem mainstream or something you’ve heard over and over again, but it’s amazing how many people believe just watching ‘how to’ videos or reading presentation tips translates to a great performance. Ever seen #NOSHORTCUTS on Twitter? Well, this is a hashtag I greatly believe in.
Here’s some friendly advice…from my journey, my story.
Growing up my family actively participated in sports and my father was a famous sportsman in our town. On many occasions, as soon as I mentioned my maiden name people immediately connected me to him. I was a good athlete in my own right and I remember being woken up at 5am so l could train before starting school, a teenager’s absolute nightmare. What this did however, was give me good training and discipline. It prepared my mind and body for tournaments which led to many victories on the track.
HOW is this related to my blog?
Good story-telling and presentation skills need to be developed, which means discipline and training, just like an athlete. It’s not about investing time a day before you present, but just like my 5am wake ups, it is a disciplined training programme that requires dedication over weeks or even months until you master the art. Most great story-tellers of our time spend hours preparing. Look no further than the late Steve Jobs, who used to run through his presentations with a select audience before the actual delivery day.
Story-telling and presenting are amongst the most important communication tools which can be adapted to various speaking situations e.g. briefing a team, leading a meeting or addressing a group of people. Ensuring you have these skills is certainly an imperative if your ambition is to take on leadership roles or to climb up the career ladder in any given field. You may have a great vision or great ideas or have technically rich content, if you can’t communicate this effectively, then you simply won’t succeed in engaging your intended audience. A colleague of mine recently mentioned one of Benjamin Franklin’s quotes, “by failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail”, I couldn’t agree with this more.
WHAT does a well-told story or presentation look like?
All good stories have a beginning, middle and end. A great story is one that emotionally engages your audience so they can connect to your content. It inspires and sticks in your audience’s mind for a long period of time. It uses colourful descriptive words and searches one’s own life for experiences, which help express and bring out true emotion.
BUT how do you make your presentation effective?
My secret to an effective presentation is the power of a great story and the ability to tell it. You can bring any presentation to life and engage your audience by using story-telling as a technique to motivate and inspire people. Stories open up lines of communication and from time in memorial, people have always naturally ‘archived’ and passed on information verbally way before any of us could read or write.
Some years back, I remember watching 24, an American TV series for literally 10 hours non-stop simply because l was hooked on the engaging story line. Stories are irresistible to the human mind because they activate our imagination. Academics have found that the human brain is hard-wired to process and store information in the form of stories and visuals. Another tip to consider is using basic words and visuals to supplement your story as this helps build a captivating tale that creates a clear mental picture.
WHAT has worked for me?
As l mentioned before, you need to invest some ‘training’ time. I tend to stick to my pragmatic, tried and tested technique (UTP – UnderstandTailorPractice)
There are many aspects to this training, such as tailoring your content, finding your voice, stage presence, using gestures effectively etc.
In my experience, compelling and confidently delivered stories or presentations have simply been a result of time invested in engaging my simple UTP technique above.
One other thing worth noting however is, that part of this training actually involves putting yourself out there and finding opportunities to present, initially in a safe environment. This is a great opportunity to gather constructive feedback, which will help shape you as a credible speaker.
WHEN should you start preparing?
This all depends on how experienced you are as a speaker or presenter. Seasoned presenters may not need a lot of preparation time because of years of ‘practice’. For beginners, there is no time like the present, start now, regardless of whether or not an opportunity to present has been given to you.
My journey started when l joined a ‘Public Speaking’ club, way back during my school days. It’s never too late, you can consider looking for a Toastmasters club (or equivalent) if such a platform works for you or find a group of friends/colleagues with the same objective and set yourselves a challenge. I personally find TED talks very helpful as
l always pick up some good skills which l then leverage in my preparation for presentations.
3. Practice… #NOSHORTCUTS
Watch this space…
About the contributing author
Sippie Thabane Mungaraza is a Finance Manager with PwC Global and has a decade of experience in Accounting & Finance having started her career with an international company in the medical devices industry. She’s a member of the Aspiring Executives Committee (AXC), a do-it- yourself executive development programme which facilitates the development of 7 core leadership competencies. You can attend the AXC Networking Conference on November 22nd and meet other driven professionals like Sippie Mungaraza. Here’s the link: AXC Networking Conference