When you’re on stage, presenting, there’s an awful lot to think about. Not only do you need to concentrate on your material, you need to consider what we call your…
Part one: Why to develop your Producer’s Voice
Just like meta-language is everything except the language that goes around it (tone of voice, body posture etc.), meta-material is everything except your material – it’s the stuff that you need to concentrate on (or at least be aware of) to make sure your material comes across well.
|At its most simple, your meta-material would involve keeping a running check on things like:||
||Then there’s the meta-material to do with your own delivery:|
Hopefully you’ll be able to add to that list relatively easily.
Exercise: take a few minutes to do exactly that.
Once you master the skill of observing yourself delivering your presentation, you’ll be able to make much better presentations, because you’ll be aware of not just your content, but how your content is being received and how to improve that.
|Consider this analogy… pretend you’re a TV interviewer and you’re concentrating on the question you’re asking, listening to the answer and really engaging with the interviewee. At the same time, you’ve got a Producer who is watching the interview, in another room, and who is talking to you in your ear via a radio earpiece, making comments such as ” He didn’t like that question: what is he hiding? Push on that topic a little more.” The advantage is that as the presenter you can concentrate on the actual questioning and at the same time your producer concentrates on the bigger picture.
But be careful – it’s not easy to develop, because it can all-too-easily confuse you!
Part two: How to develop your Producer’s Voice
It’s a five step process and it is often a case of “two steps forwards, one step back”, so don’t worry if it takes you a long time to get to grips with this.
This is pretty much like the very popular form of meditation/calming/self development called Mindfulness. The trick is simple do nothing in particular and just commentate in your head on what you can hear, see, smell and feel (the order is handy, but not critically important). So far so good, this is the simple step.
If you’re alone and feeling up to it, move to describing what you’re doing out loud.
Don’t rush on from this. Although it’s not particularly challenging, it’s also not easy to get completely right. Come back to it after a break and see what you’ve missed. Go over it a few times. Use different situations and go back to things you’ve done before. Do it until you’re completely confident that you’re noticing, actively, everything about the situation that’s important.
This is a simple step forward from what you’re doing now. Instead of commenting to yourself when you’re pretty much doing nothing, begin to commentate on yourself when you’re doing something simple and passive. Watching the TV might be an example, or making a cup of tea… it doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it’s something
- that you don’t need to concentrate on a great deal
- that doesn’t matter if it goes wrong.
My personal favourite is to sit at the front of a Metro (the urban light railway that runs in Tyne and Wear – if you don’t know what they are, think of them as like trams) and commentate on the route I’m seeing as we go along. That’s a bit tricky, as there’s so much happening at once, so this might be a better option – just walking to the shops… When you’re ready, try it with this short video clip.
Moving on, you do the same as you’ve just done, but this time to things that are active and harder. A typical example is to narrate your drive home after work… comment on what’s going on around you and what you’re doing, including things like other cars, gear changes you make, when you look in the mirror, pedestrians and other potential hazards.
It’s harder than you think – and if you’re experimenting with narrating as you drive and you’re anything like me, you’ll probably realise you drive a lot more on ‘automatic pilot’ than you should! 😉
|Don’t take risks – concentrating on your driving and staying safe is more important than the commentary.|
Take your time with this one. Don’t panic if you can’t comment on everything straight away – it takes a little practice. I suggest you start with simple drives and no one else in the car – move on to more complicated routes and passengers when you’re ready!
And remember, driving is just an example – use whatever activity works for you.
Try out your new skills by commentating (in your head!) on someone else’s presentation. Live is better than nothing – videos are a good starting point but they’re full of potential issues. It’s rare to see the audience consistently in things like a TED talk – and for this exercise you need to see the room as whole etc. And let’s face it, anyone who’s prepared to put videos of their presentations online is pretty experienced/good.
Networking meetings are a good place to start, live. Or any club/event/whatever that has speakers. Try your local library! Or the town’s literary society! Even the Mothers’ Union!
Time to go live!
As you do your next presentation, you can use this skill to keep track of things like who’s “getting it” and who needs more attention in your audience. You can also use it to keep yourself prepared for what might be about to come up. For example, as you’re introducing a slide with a video embedded you can use this skill to make sure that you’ve got the volume of the video turned up to the right level and that you know where you’re going to stand so that you can watch your audience’s reaction to what they see, so that you can work with that at the end of the video.
Personally, I use this skill to keep an eye on how long it is to the next break, as well! 😉
Summing up and moving on
You might find you need to go back a step as you progress. So be it, don’t panic. Use your judgement and common sense and you’ll be fine.