PRESENTATION COACHING: MY APPROACH
Science+Story Communications provides an individualized, non-templated approach to coaching public speaking. The approach comes out of my experience training dozens of scientists and other subject matter experts to deliver high-stakes talks to their senior managers, executive teams, and donors and donor prospects.
Each presentation presents a unique combination of challenges and factors that must be identified and balanced — from narrative construction to audience and speaker psychology to slide clarity to event objectives. I have achieved great coaching success through a mutual development process with the speaker that prioritizes the audience. I find that when speakers begin to focus less on what they want to say and more on the identities, needs and attention spans of the audience, their talks almost always improve — in many cases, suddenly and dramatically,
An effective presentation or talk — however technical — is much more than just the conveyance of information. To be memorable and to move the audience to action, the presentation must be rooted in strong, familiar metanarratives such as solving a thorny problem, overcoming an obstacle, and/or resolving tension between an individual and the community or between groups. Regardless of subject, the best talks are highly architectural or symphonic, taking audiences through crescendos and decrescendos of tension, interest, surprise, suspense and/or empathy before reaching resolution.
That’s why I start the development process by working with the speaker to develop target audience personae — their identities, needs, mindsets, questions and obstacles to absorbing or acting on the talk’s messages. With these personae in mind, we then pivot to the talks and construct them using an architectonic approach — uncovering underlying metanarratives; streamlining messy drafts into unique narrative progressions that script and slides both can reflect; and coaching the presenters to match their deliveries to the narratives and to overcome any technical flaws in those deliveries.
We also maximize slide clarity, especially for scientific graphs and charts. I discourage the use of slides as teleprompters for the speaker, as the audience’s focus should either be on the slide or the speaker — never divided. For most non-specialist talks, I encourage the use of simple images with few words.
Initial consultations often involve patiently breaking through conceptual log-jams presenters have created with original drafts or versions of the talks they have been giving for months or years. Under my coaching, a typical presentation goes through at least two and sometimes as may as five or six revisions from first consultation to event. I work to immediately establish a culture of co-creation and supportive, candid feedback.
To work with me to help improve your next presentation, contact Science+Story.