Dr Jelly Roll & Mr Hyde take a sideways glance at presentation techniques

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Dr Jelly Roll & Mr Hyde take a backwards glance at folk singing

We know who they are: the Dr Jelly Rolls and the Mr Hydes. The ones who engage with their audience, who entertain. And the ones who make their toes curl. Which are you? Read on, and find out about the magic potion that turns Mr Hydes into Dr Jelly Rolls.

My day job involves standing up in front of people and agreeing a shared understanding of a business problem. Iím whatís politely called a consultant. I see a lot of fellow consultants who donít engage their audiences and donít get the necessary free flow of information and opinions. How can a group of people agree on anything if half of them are asleep?

I have seen top executives who have bored their audiences rigid. One who springs to mind started out with the less than encouraging words that heíd not seen the presentation until a few minutes earlier so he didnít really know what he was talking about. Thanks very much: but youíre the boss, so feel free to waste my time and to make me realise just how unimportant I am.

Youíve probably been there, too. Maybe at work, the school PTA, the quiz night... Presenters who turn up late, havenít got their notes, apologise, mumble. They donít look you in the eye, you canít hear them properly. Theyíve got some technology-assisted illustrations which are too small to read, not relevant. Thatís if the technologyís even working properly. Embarrassing, isnít it? "Why am I wasting my time here? I could be doing something useful..."

Hopefully youíve also seen how it should be: where the speaker is enthusiastic (and audible), the technology works, and everybodyís tuned in and making the appropriate contributions.

Meanwhile, back at folk singing... youíre probably way ahead of me, itís not that hard, but if youíre the apologetic mumbler, "havenít had time to rehearse", not tuned up, then youíre Mr Hyde. And your audience will be wishing that they were somewhere else.

The Dr Jelly Rolls are enthusiastic and well prepared. Those two aspects go together. Itís hard to be enthusiastic when you know that youíre under-prepared. And thereís an inevitability in starting with an apology Ė everybody, including yourself, expects failure. Most seemingly confident performers are bluffing at least part of the time. But that bluff often starts a self-reinforcing process taking the person "into the zone".

So whatís the magic potion? Preparation X? No: just preparation. If you think that a room full of people should give you their time, then you owe it to them to have given of yours. Knowing what youíre doing will lead to confidence and enthusiasm and that makes for a performance that will make your audience glad to have invested their time in listening to and engaging with you.

The above is a copy of an article commissioned for Solent Waves

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