What kind of public speaker are you? (WeForum)

By Richard Feloni

Source: https://agenda.weforum.org December 5, 2014

Gavin McMahon, cofounder of fassforward strategy and communications consulting group in New York, thinks that it’s a fundamental mistake to see presenting advice as one-size-fits-all. He’s spent the last seven years collecting data from his company’s work with clients like Microsoft and Estee Lauder. He’s determined that presenters naturally have different ways of prioritizing words, pictures, and structure, and that these tendencies result in six distinct kinds of presenters. While experienced speakers can utilize techniques from any of the types, McMahon finds that every speaker starts as one of the six, and he believes that amateurs should play to their innate strengths and correct for the accompanying weaknesses.

The Coach- Priorities: Pictures, Words, Structure

Strengths: Coaches win over an audience with their passion and energy. They’re great at role-playing and interacting with their audience. “They are very animated speakers, pacing and gesturing,” McMahon says, referring to the way they are able to communicate their own experiences.

Weaknesses: Coaches may be so enthusiastic that they move too quickly for their audience, not giving them time to absorb ideas. They can also become wrapped up in their energy for a subject and get lost in tangents. To avoid these problems, McMahon advises these types of presenters to prepare by focusing on two or three concrete messages they would like to impart so that they stay on track. He says he’s seen coaches keep a “cheat sheet” with these messages to keep them at the forefront of their mind. It’s necessary for coaches to be aware of the fact that they’re on a different level from their audience in terms of both energy and knowledge of a particular subject.

The Inventor- Priorities: Pictures, Structure, Words

Strengths: Inventors are great at building a slideshow for a presentation because they understand how a thesis should be presented and then explained. They’ll start with some points they’d like to hit and then construct an arrangement around them. They are usually most comfortable in a Q&A following a presentation because it allows them to express themselves while freed from the constraints of a performance. Weaknesses: They aren’t naturally comfortable presenting. The worst thing inventors can try to do is commit a script to memory because they become anxious over remembering little details and just the right words. Instead, they’re best off using slides as “stepping stones,” with cues for how they need to proceed. These cues can be brief notes or images that trigger ideas and require that the speaker only quickly glance at a slide rather than falling into a trap of reading text in front of their audience, putting them to sleep.

The Counselor- Priorities: Words, Structure, Pictures

Strengths: Counselors are eloquent and confident speakers. They’re logical and easy to follow.

Weaknesses: As “words people,” counselors have a tendency to become “very dry and clinical,” McMahon says.

He tells his clients of this type to consciously insert anecdotes into their presentations, allowing them to use their gift of eloquence to engage their audience on a human level.

The Storyteller- Priorities: Words, Pictures, Structure

Strengths: Storytellers “speak with feeling and rhythm” and have no problem winning over an audience with visceral and entertaining stories.

Weaknesses: McMahon says that one of his former clients who presented this way was the CEO of a global advertising organization and was naturally comfortable onstage. McMahon remembers a particular event when, after the speech, he asked audience members what they thought of it and what the purpose of the speech was; everyone said they loved listening to the exec’s stories, but no one really knew what he was getting at.

This is because storytellers need to develop a presentation that serves as a logical “map” that guides them through a particular thesis. They should leave space in between guiding slides to share anecdotes.

The Teacher- Priorities: Structure, Words, Pictures

Strengths: Teachers excel at explaining complex ideas in logical steps. They are so careful about the construction of their presentations that they can memorize large blocks of information. Weaknesses: Teachers can become so focused on their ideas and slides that they ignore their audience. “They can practice in an empty room and then present in front of 500 people and sound exactly the same,” McMahon says. Teachers can avoid becoming too dull by adding simple, attractive visuals to their slideshows, as well as some humor. McMahon says that a New York economics professor he works with has developed an effective style where he inserts funny comics into his presentations that are related to his subject matter, letting them stand on their own, so that his students’ eyes don’t glaze over.

The Producer- Priorities: Structure, Pictures, Words

Strengths: These types of presenters can create a meticulous, well-structured presentation from beginning to end. They excel at determining how the “meat” of their presentation will unfold. They’re “producers” because they like to work behind the scenes. Weaknesses: Though their slideshow or written speech may be excellent, they have a tendency to freeze and stumble through their presentation because they’re not comfortable thinking spontaneously in front of a group of people. Producers can build confidence by rehearsing a hook for the beginning of their presentation that grabs the audience’s attention, and then maintain that attention by inserting some rhetorical questions. McMahon says that producers should choose talking points over large blocks of text, but build in as many cues as possible into the presentation to avoid anxiety of having to improvise.

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