It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Jiffee was a Best of Show winner at Finovate Fall 2017.

I realize that most readers will not know what that means, so let me explain. Finovate is a company that runs conferences around the globe where financial innovations are presented. Companies with cutting-edge banking and financial technology ideas have seven minutes to present their idea to a room full of bankers, financiers, and investors. For example, think about how all credit cards now have chips embedded in them? That was a financial innovation. According to the Finovate website, Jiffee won the top prize this fall for its “tap and pay mobile technology that turns any device into a payment terminal, enabling consumers to pay anywhere and everywhere without relying on plastic credit and debit cards.”

As soon as the Best in Show announcement was made, someone tweeted: “Is best in show for the best product or the best demo?? May not be one in [sic] the same. #finovate”

The question is an important one and brings into a focus a critical point: how you say something may be more important than what you say. What if the best idea at the show was presented so poorly that no one realized how good it was? What if an inferior idea was presented so well that everyone gave it higher marks than it deserved? Did Jiffee win Best in Show because it had the best product or because its presenters nailed the seven-minute show?

Speakers tend to undervalue the performance part of oral communication. Yes, you must have something worth saying before you speak, but that can become worthless if you cannot say it well. Think of times you have seen poor presentations lead to:

  • worthwhile new initiatives failing to generate buy-in
  • better products losing the sale to inferior products
  • quality suggestions being ignored at the staff meeting
  • important information being forgotten at the training.

On the flip side, you may be able to think of times you were fooled by great presentation skills. Case in point: my wife and I have a juicer collecting dust, but the guy at the store made it seem like we couldn’t survive without it.
The important point here is that you must develop your presentation skills. Readers of Own Any Occasion know that there are six keys to effectively delivering a talk. Perhaps the most important of the six—and certainly the one most often missing—is life. Speakers do not have enough life in their voices: feeling, emotion, passion. Indeed, when I ask people to share their number one complaint about training they have experienced, the most common answer is, “The speaker was boring.” And when I ask them to explain why, they typically say that the presenter was “dull” or  “monotonous.” Sound familiar?


But have you critically evaluated your skills? Is it possible that you are sort of dull, too? Have you worked on adding life to your talks?

To improve your presentation skills, try these ideas:

  • Using whatever device is convenient, record yourself saying this phrase: Nothing is more important than this. Play it back. Did you hear importance? Rerecord, with more life, and play it back. Better? Nothing is more important than this.

  • Observe other speakers in person or in media. Pay attention to how they add life to the words they speak.

  • Stretch yourself. It is common for people to tell me, “I’m just not that kind of person.” But you have to become that kind of person if you want to be effective. You may not match the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., as he says, “And I have dream today!” But you can be livelier than you currently are.

  • Watch this short video.

Bottom line: Don’t let good messages suffer because of poor performance. Understand the importance of delivering the message and devote yourself to improving each of the six skills of powerful presentation.

For more advice, check out Own Any Occasion. This book offers 11 steps for how to craft the perfect message and captivate audiences with exceptional delivery, no matter the circumstance. 

About the Author

Erik Palmer is an author, speaker, and consultant from Denver, Colorado. He focuses on improving oral communication—whether one-on-one, small group, large group, informal or formal, in-person or digital—by sharing practical, understandable ideas that help all adults become effective speakers and teachers of speaking. Erik previously spent 10 years managing an office for a prominent commodity brokerage firm, where he was the national sales leader), and trading on the floor of a Chicago commodity exchange. He also taught in one of Colorado’s premier school districts for 21 years, and was named a Teacher of the Year. A frequent presenter at conferences, Erik has given keynotes and led workshops for adults across the United States and around the world. He is the author of the ATD Press book, Own Any Occasion, as well as Well-Spoken: Teaching Speaking to All Students, Digitally Speaking: How to Improve Student Presentations with Technology, Teaching the Core Skills of Listening & Speaking, Researching in a Digital World , and Good Thinking: Teaching Argument, Persuasion, and Reasoning. Erik has a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and a master’s degree from the University of Colorado, Denver. 

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