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Use Your Unique STYLE to Add Power to Your Presentations
by Chris King

I know that in previous articles I have urged you to try some speaking techniques that take you out of your comfort zone. I have even suggested being somewhat "outrageous." That is all well and good, but in this article I am going to examine the other side of the coin. What do I mean? I mean that we all have a STYLE that is ours - who we are uniquely. What I am suggesting is to continue to work on those speaking skills that need improvement, but all the while being true to our own self as a presenter and our own unique qualities.

Let me share the story that triggered this article. I was asked to teach a new fitness class, called "Pain in the Butt," a program that is being rolled out at the club where I teach aerobics. I was handed a video of the class as taught by the man who originated the workout. No one said that I had to do it exactly the way he presented it, but I chose to try. You would think that I have learned better by now that this just doesn't work for me. I have my own style of teaching which is completely different from his. When I taught the first class, I was uncomfortable, which in turn made the students uncomfortable. The second day I taught it, I used my own style of teaching (still performing his great toning ideas without all of the fancy footwork). It worked like a charm - all of us worked hard, enjoyed ourselves and now have sore buns to show for it. And, I was reminded to use my unique STYLE. It is the same with presenting. When we try to be or act like someone else, everyone is uncomfortable.

Observe and learn from other presenters, but never, never copy their STYLE. I attend a plethora of programs, workshops and seminars, not only to learn and grow from the information covered, but to also evaluate what I especially liked and disliked about the presentation techniques. The top speakers who are asked back time after time all have their own style of speaking - and it is often not "by the book" but it is highly effective. To help develop your own style, start by making note of what the presenter did that made you sit up and take notice. We generally like and relate well with people who are like us. How are you like that speaker? If he or she is high energy and uses that energy to advantage, ask yourself how you could use your own level of energy to advantage - not the same way, but in your way. Possibly, that presenter has such a passion and belief in what he or she is presenting, it holds the audience spellbound. I witnessed this today at a presentation given by a top IT professional. She was so committed to her topic along with being sincere and knowledgeable, you could have heard a pin drop during her 90 minute program. On top of this, a group lined up afterward to speak with her - another 45 minutes of speaking and listening. That is the unique STYLE that comes from being passionate about a topic. Are you? If not, pick another topic.

It is honorable to want to please the audience, but never, never for the price of sacrificing your unique STYLE. It just doesn't work. The audience may not be disappointed, but you will be. Several years ago I was asked to give a motivational, pep-talk-like talk to a group of healthcare executives worried about fund raising for their institutions. To get a better handle on the situation, I asked for phone numbers of some of the participants and talked with them beforehand. They each shared a rather "glum" view of the future. I also talked with other friends about my approach. And, then I made two mistakes:

  • First, rather than going with my intuition to shake them up by asking some really tough questions, I tried to make them feel better by being super positive and skirting the big problems. And, they did feel better, but was that ever going to produce bountiful funding for them?
  • Secondly, one of my friends suggested that I dress more conservatively than usual (I am not a bizarre dresser, but do have a certain STYLE of my own), so I wore a classic, herringbone tweed suit and classic, understated jewelry. I was immediately accepted, but wondered if I would be memorable in any way for more than a couple of hours - if that long, even.

Everyone in the audience was pleased and tranquil as they left, but as I drove home, I asked myself what had happened to my usual high energy and in-your-face honesty. I had learned my lesson. If I can't be myself, I shouldn't take the assignment. It's not fair to anyone.

Expand your speaking strengths to establish your own unique presentation STYLE. It is odd how we as speakers tend to focus on what we don't do well. If we focus on our strengths and work on exaggerating and enhancing them, we will no longer need to worry about weaknesses and will start becoming known for our own unique style of presentation. You may not even realize your strongest skills - the majority of us don't. We are too busy listening to our inner critic. Ask a friend or colleague you trust to tell you what your strengths are - both in speaking and normal day-to-day communications. You will be amazed by how straightforward and easy it will be for him or her to answer. Take those strengths and work to make them even stronger and you will be on your way as a speaker in demand.

Remember to be yourself. Everyone is unique and when we rely on our own STYLE, everyone will benefit - especially the audience and us too!

Let me know what you think. I love your FEEDBACK!

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