It is often said that the easiest way to improve any skill is to "learn from the best".
In 2015, Mohammed Qahtani gave a brilliant speech to become crowned the World Champion of Public Speaking.
In this article, I share some of the key techniques that he uses. I'll show you how you can easily apply his methods to your own presentations to transform your results.
The power of becoming a compelling presenter
To influence and motivate anyone, you have to communicate your ideas powerfully and persuasively.
Of course, your audience also needs to be engaged and actually listening to get your message to stick.
If you want to get people excited to work with you, rather than switching them off, these presentation tips are for you.
They come from the world champion of public speaking - yes there is such a thing - and they will teach you to become a more engaging speaker, even if your subject happens to be quite dull!
Have a look at the video below (it's less than 8 minutes long) and read the presentation tips below.
1. Start with impact
Mohammed uses a really unexpected and innovative opening to grab the audience's attention right from the start.
Using the cigarette as a prop to shock them initially. Then some surprising, if not entirely accurate, statistics about the damaging effects of smoking. He also uses humour throughout the opening.
These really grab the audience's attention ensuring they are primed to listen to the rest of his presentation with anticipation and a sense of curiosity.
Too many business presentations start with a dull and elongated introduction to the speaker and their department and/or company. Everyone expects these (boring) openings, so audiences know they can mentally tune out of the presentation.
The fact that you are speaking does not mean that your audience is listening. You have to work at it.
You can grab their attention effortlessly with an impactful or though provoking opening.
Start your own presentations by opening with something new or novel, or by challenging conventional wisdom. Alternatively, start by asking a thought provoking question or two.
So, rather than, “Sales were up 11% last year due to increased advertising and lower pricing,” why not get people engaged by saying:
“What impact do you think our reduced pricing had on sales last year? Well, we were up by a record 11%. And the reason is one we would never have anticipated. It’s fascinating and represents a huge opportunity, but I’ll get to that shortly…”
Anything, frankly, that gets their attention and is different from the norm can have a powerful effect.
Great presentations open with intrigue and close with impact.
2. Use questions to engage your audience.
Have you ever sat through a presentation and found yourself switching off, letting your mind wander onto other things?
Of course you have. Sadly, that happens with most audiences during virtually all business presentations.
Many novice speakers simply engage in a monologue. One person talking at their audience. The role of listener is entirely passive; It's no wonder they tune out.
Mohammed uses questions throughout to engage his audience. This makes them feel involved and part of his presentation.
His questions provoke the audience to think about their response and this keeps them attentive.
You can easily engage your audience by regularly asking them thought provoking questions. If you are nervous that they will respond with elaborate answers or debates that disrupt your flow, ask a question, pause and then provide an answer.
Alternatively, get them engaged by asking them to "raise their hand if...".
Anything that gets your audience to be an active participant will dramatically improve their focus on what you have to say.
3. Ensure you have one clear and simple message
Mohammad maintains a very clear message throughout his presentation centred upon the power and impact of words.
He continually returns to that message. It starts at the beginning of his speech and he returns to it again and again.
All of his stories and examples serve and support this theme.
Inexperienced presenters tend to have too many 'key takeaways' for the audience to be able to discern the most important message. Or, they simply have no core message at all.
Audiences crave clarity in order to really follow and understand your ideas. Whittling a presentation down to its most essential concepts ensures you don't overwhelm listeners.
You should aim to make it easy for your audience to work out the most important elements of your presentation.
One of your most important tasks when delivering a presentation is to have one clear and simple message. For your ideas to stick, they should be simple and profound.
Making the core message a prominent focus of your presentation will ensure that it is remembered and much more likely to be acted upon.
4. Use stories
In just 8 minutes, Mohammed takes us through two stories. Both are realistic, thought provoking and emotional.
Both stories perfectly illustrate and support the core message of his presentation: the power and impact of words.
He also uses a superb example to explain why so many people fail to grasp the impact of global warming.
His stories quite clearly captivate his audience.
Throughout history, stories have been a vital driver of change
Good stories surprise us. They are compelling. They make us think, make us feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and text on a slide with a bar graph don’t.
Humans simply aren’t moved to action by “data dumps,” dense Power Point slides, or spreadsheets packed with numbers.
People are moved by emotion. The best way to emotionally connect other people to your agenda is with a story.
Providing stories or examples rather than 'information dumps' will always result in a more compelling and persuasive presentation.
5. Have the courage to be vulnerable
Mohammed displays his vulnerable side twice during his presentation.
First, by confessing to chastising his son after catching him writing on the wall with crayons. He acknowledges his approach was wrong because people do not like to be threatened or intimidated. He accepted that his son kept on with such behaviour just to spite him.
He then explains how a new approach, using empowering words and encouragement, achieves a positive outcome. In so doing, he admits to getting it wrong but learning from his mistake.
Second, he risks personal ridicule when he comically impersonates a scientist explaining the impact of global warming. This could easily go wrong or cause the audience to laugh at him rather than with him.
Nevertheless, he takes a risk and as a result, shows his human side and displays genuine authenticity.
Authenticity is built upon honesty and a willingness to be vulnerable.
It is risky and that is why authenticity is so rare amongst speakers. It is, however, genuinely appreciated and valued when it is found.
Very few speakers have the confidence to show any vulnerability when they speak publicly.
Perhaps this comes from the mistaken belief that to be credible, they must come across as strong, powerful and knowledgeable. They must stick to the facts and be serious at all times.
Reverting to nothing more than a 'corporate spokesperson' will risk detaching you from your audience.
Ultimately, to get your audience to think along the same lines as you, they will have to like and trust you. Surprisingly, it’s vulnerability and your willingness to show that your are human, and therefore fallible, that is at the core of friendship and likeability.
So take a calculated risk when presenting by showing that your are human and therefore fallible. Your audience will love your for it.