Why do performance appraisals fail to improve performance?

by Sam on September 9, 2009


00:10 Answer: Imagine you just heard the best presentation of your life. Why was it so good? Chances are the person at the front of the room achieved many, if not all, of these voice victories.

1.   Analyzed the audience. The best presentations are shaped by the answers to these questions. How does the audience feel about you, the topic, and them being there? What hopes, dreams, and expectations do they hold? What are their values, beliefs, values, politics, and world view? How about mood and frame of mind? What prior knowledge do they have? Desire for detail? Attention span? What pleasure would they love to gain from your words? And most importantly, what pain do they desire to be set free from?

2.   Knew the speech purpose. When your audience leaves your presence what do you want them to think, feel, say, or do differently than when they entered your presence? In other words, what better future do you intend to create for them based upon your analysis of them? This, not any topic or title, is the purpose of a great speech.

3.   Made a confident, decisive, and interest-evoking introduction. When you read a novel, you often gauge the value of finishing the book while still on the first page. Audiences do the same to you. Let the first words out of your mouth be a quotation, a startling statistic, a strong or surprising statement, a thought-provoking rhetorical question, an immediate connection to a current or historical event, or the first lines of a story. These are far stronger openers than “Welcome to…,” “Good morning!” or “I am pleased to have the opportunity…”

4.   Clearly laid out the direction. The popularity of automobile GPS systems demonstrates how much people want to know where they’re going and how they’re going to get there. As part of your introduction show your audience a map they can reference while you speak in the form of the three to five main points (generalizations) that will achieve your speech purpose.

5.   Provided well organized & compelling content. There’s an admonition in the Bible about not casting pearls before swine. More often than we care to admit, what we’re casting is more like pods than pearls. Rev up your content with these elements: (1) emotional appeals that tug at the heart or conscience; (2) logical appeals grounded in statistics and other objectively verified information; (3) quotations from experts or historical figures; (4) a selection you read from a page in a notable book; (5) eye-catching audiovisuals; (6) story telling; (7) examples, analogies, and metaphors; (8) definitions (“Webster defines…”); (9) acronyms that help people remember key concepts; and (10) creative transitions from one section to another that give your listeners a smooth and enjoyable ride.

6.   Used correct, appropriate, and eloquent language. There are many word snobs out there that are offended by incorrect, inappropriate, mispronounced, or ungrammatical expressions. They are pleased by an economy of language, where fewer words are used to greater effect. These listeners long to have memorable and masterful word pictures painted for them. How’s your verbal artistry?

7.   Spoke clearly and distinctly. It’s not what you say that counts, but how well you say it. Do you speak it in a way that is easily and enjoyably understood? Listen to your recorded voice. Do you need to work on your enunciation?

8.   Avoided unnecessary utterances. Perhaps the most common comment written on the critiques given to the executives I coach following their presentations is “Too many ah’s and uhm’s.” Be sure that you also, stay away from overused words and pet phrases such as “basically”, “incidentally,” “and,” “next,” “to be truthful with you,” “good question,” and “the point I’m trying to make is…

9.   Harnessed voice to good advantage. By one research study, voice (“vocalics”) has five times more impact on listeners than words. In other words your emphasis, inflection, intonation, dialect, fluency, speed, and volume will elevate the valuing of your ideas as much as anything else.

10.  Used influential body language, especially eye contact. The same study reported in #7 concluded that body language is eight times more impactful than word choice. Presenters are immeasurably helped or hindered by it. A few tips: (1) look your listeners in the eyes; (2) look at notes or Power Point slides as little as possible; (3) smile and keep your eyebrows up much of the time; (4) maintain an erect posture—don’t lean on anything; (5) allow hand gestures to be natural and comfortable for you—one of the few bad hand position is for both of them to be in your pockets at the same time; (6) never point at the audience with your index finger—use an open palm with four fingers together; (7) dress slightly more formal than your audience with impeccable grooming; (8) don’t do anything repeatedly, such adjusting your glasses or scratching your ear; (9) don’t wear a name tag—it detracts and distracts.

11.  Used Power Point or other AV effectively. Any form of audiovisual aids can markedly advance the fortunes of your presentations. Unfortunately, the misuse of Power Point so often has the opposite effect on message impact. Adopt these ideas to enhance this medium: (1) use a light colored san seraph font with shadow background on a dark colored slide; (2) don’t ever have so much information on a slide that prompts you to say, “I realize you can’t read these numbers, but…”; (3) make limited use of “custom animation” for formal business presentations; (4) make limited use of graphic art; for sophisticated audiences source your pictures from professional web sites such as iStock; (5) darken only the part of the room directly in front of the screen; and (6) view your slides on a computer screen put between you and your audience—turn to look at the same screen they’re looking at only to emphasize an idea.

12.  Controlled nervousness. Some presenters have little nervousness to control; many have a lot. (You’re not alone.) Try one or more of these suggestions: (1) study this entire list so well that you are confidently educated on the components of great presentations; (2) don’t use this list to focus fearfully on what not to do the next time you present, but rather eagerly on what you will do; (3) recognize that a moderate amount of podium anxiety is actually energizing and positive; (4) prepare so thoroughly that you become the expert in the room on your topic; (5) rehearse just enough to know the first two or three sentence of your opening and to feel assured about entry into each of your main points, but not so much that you sound lifeless; (6) get familiar with the room in advance; if possible rehearse there; (7) deep breathing, stretching, clenched fists, or a bit of exercise just before you go on can be calming; (8) when you begin, absolutely fill the room with your voice to expend nervous energy; (9) focus on a friendly (familiar?) face or two in the audience for support; (10) involve the audience meaningfully in some way early on by getting them on their feet, asking you questions, or registering opinions.

13.  Handled questions and the audience with aplomb. (I love that word!) Great presenters actually look forward to questions. They are so knowledgeable on their topic that no matter what the question, their answer can’t help but sound good. They also have a plan for handling disruption or other audience trouble. When someone says, “I disagree with you!” they know to resolve matters with, “What did I say that you disagree with” not “Why do you disagree with me.”

14.  Closed confidently and decisively. Some would argue that the introduction and conclusion are the most critical elements of your presentation. Certainly, they are two stages during which your energy needs to peak and for which you need to be most thoroughly prepared. At the end summarize very briefly your main points. Consider incorporating one of the same elements that are smart for an introduction. (Review #3.) Additionally, a vocal tone of finality clothing the last words of your ending sentence will signal that you’re finished. Think of the conclusion as throwing a ball to your audience, after having held it throughout the presentation.

Additionally: Martin Luther King, Jr. longed for the day that people would be judged by the “content of their character rather than the color of their skin.” In like manner, I wish I could tell you that the content of your speech will determine its success more than how you present it. I can’t tell you that because, as you see in this ASK, content is dwarfed by many diverse dimensions of delivery.

Aphorism: I do not object to people looking at their watches when I am speaking. But I strongly object when they start shaking them to make certain they are still going. ~Lord Birkett

Approaching: Send me an email for an advance copy of any of these “coming attractions.”

10/21: How can I/we run more effective meetings?

11/4: What should be our rules of engagement at meetings?

11/18: How can we get employees to provide world class service to customers?

12/2: How can we get employees to provide world class service to each other?

12/16: What should I have on my list of goals for personal achievement?

12/30: What is the essence of emotional competence?

1/13: What can I do about a coworker who’s driving me crazy?

1/27: What is the explanation for my greatest frustration in life?

Action (yours)

Do you have an Ask for Sam about leadership, team building or communications? Email that question to him at sam@asksamdeep.com. He will respond to you either by email or telephone. Please include your telephone number with your Ask.

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