Tweak your delivery: three naked lessons

Note: I started this yesterday, then had to tweak me some visuals. Tweaking is exhausting!

I am as we speak sitting in my amazing class–this class is seriously great. It’s so inspiring to work with such a great bunch of learners and thinkers. Enough gushing, I am participating in today’s delivery workshop, which is led by the always engaging and energetic Alex Rister. Both Alex and I derive much inspiration for delivery from Garr Reynold’s book, The Naked Presenter. Reynold’s explores the delivery leg of the Presentation Zen system in this seminal text. What struck me most when I read this book, was just how empathetic to audience needs Reynold’s approach is. Think of how many boring, unengaging, forgettable presentations you’ve been forced to sit through. Think of just how many of those presentations you really could have done completely without because the presenter made him or herself irrelevant through plastic, robotic, frenetic, unpolished, and unclear delivery. At times, we fall back on ineffective delivery habits because we feel uncomfortable, we believe that effective speakers are all like Billy Mays and Tony Robbins (by the way, Tony Robbins is awesome–he just IS like that).  Some of the speakers I admire most–Jill Bolte Taylor, Benjamin Zander, Randy Pausch– are natural and real. They are unafraid to show passion, to be almost overwhelmed by the emotion they feel towards a topic, whether it is joy, sadness, jubilance, or indignant determination. This is the essence of naked delivery–an intrepid and unafraid soul. Three lessons that I take from the naked approach are:

1. Be unafraid

As I’ve been exploring and learning from Seth Godin via Alex, our lizard brain, our old survival brain, uses fear to keep us alive. There is no bigger fear for most of us than the fear we perceive from public speech. Our lizard brain says we cannot do this, that people will laugh, or judge poorly, or reject us. Our lizard brain says we are going to screw it all up, that no one will like us, that nothing we say will truly break through that wall of resistance we perceive between ourselves and our audience. Our lizard brain is wrong, and the best presenters know when to tell that lizard brain to peace the ____ out. Excellent presenters are intrepid–they are unafraid to share their big ideas–what if Martin Luther King had been afraid to share his vision with ALL of America? What if he’d been afraid to face opposition, hoses, dogs, bullets, bombs? Excellent presenters are unafraid to be themselves, to share their true passion with others.

2. Keep the energy flowing

I teach for anywhere between 4 and 8 hours at a time–ONE class. I admit that the first few months, the thought of this scared me to death, and I found many ways to take the attention off of myself and put it on group work or in class activities. I quickly realized though, that without me, students quickly reverted back to their favorite 4-hour lecture habits which include Facebook, Tetris, checking NFL scores, texting, and generally not internalizing the ideas of the class. After learning the basics of Naked Presenting, and knowing that I had to be what I wanted others to emulate/mirror, I realized that the only way to keep my students energized and engaged, the only way to help them in developing their own skills was to be energetic, effusive, and idealistic–basically, I had to be ME, the me who works 55 hours a week and exercises 5 days a week; the me who dances like a monkey when someone has an aha moment; the me who bursts into random voices and songs; even the me who is moved to shiny Benjamin Zander eyes when I hear or see something inspirational. I had to keep my Chi energy flowing.

3. Make the audience part of the presentation

Reynolds quotes Confucius in discussing the importance of participation:

Your audience should always have a living representation of the content. Reynolds provides us with many different ideas for how we can keep the audience engaged–from discussion groups and polls, to videos and physical demonstrations. Because I am a cerebral college professor, I tend to fall back on Socratic discussion questions; however, one of my pedagogical goals for this year is to cultivate better application of in-class concepts. Find some way to make the audience a part of your speech–ask them questions, integrate their ideas, make them get up and monkey dance with you! Break down that fourth wall and create real resonance.

I’ll leave you with Alex’s take on Naked Presenting; this version is specifically geared towards delivery for online students. Below that is also is the rest of my naked slidedeck.

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