Presentation secrets of John Zimmer vol 1. – incorporating emotion in a presentation


Julkaistu 18.06.2013

Wow, what a weekend! John Zimmer, the reigning European Champion of public speaking, visiting the Toastmasters Finland summer party. The 48 hours that John was in Finland was packed with so much great program, great discussions and presentation tips flying to both directions that I needed take couple of days before reflecting on the learnings from the weekend.

Toastmasters at the airport.
Toastmasters at the airport. Me, John, Eveliina, Kevin and David


As always with the people who have had success in some area of life, you would think that there is some secret to being successful. John’s track record from the Toastmasters speech competitions is so impressive that you would think that behind him there must be a secret that is about the same size as the JFK conspiracy. After spending one weekend with John with all my senses tuned for detecting the secret formulas behind the man I was disappointed – there is no secret. It is just about doing the basic things, doing them often and doing them with high quality. So sorry for misleading you with headline of this post.

During the weekend there were however some things in our discussions that I wanted to record in writing and share with people. This first one is about how the presentation context dictates the amount of emotion that should be incorporated in a presentation. John described the volume of emotion on a scale of one to ten, where in ten the volume of emotion incorporated in a presentation is at the highest.

The volume of emotion in a speech depends on the context.
The volume of emotion in a speech depends on the context. The sweet spot area for a corporate presentation is somewhere between four and seven.

A typical Toastmaster’s competition speech is a nine or a ten. In that context you take the  presentation effects – such as use of stories, word selection, body language, vocal variety – to the extreme in order to communicate how much you feel for the subject and to touch the audience. Toastmasters competition (and sometimes even normal club) speeches are an extreme manifestation of emotion and presentation skills to an audience that is expecting just that. In John’s opinion this would be however too much for a typical corporate presentation context.

A typical Toastmaster competition speech is too much for normal communication situations 

In his keynote speech in the Toastmasters Summer Party, John mentioned Chip and Dan Heath’s ”Made to Stick” book as one of the best books on presentations. Funny thing is that it is not even a book about presentations. In the book the Heath brothers have studied what makes some ideas or messages gain attention in this world. By studying marketing messages, political messages, public service messages and even urban legends they identified a SUCCESs recipe that defines the ”stickyness” of ideas. Emotion is one basic ingredient of a sticky message.

A sticky presentation is one which is a Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, EMOTIONAL Story

The sweet spot for corporate presentations would be at somewhere between four and seven. Where you let it show that you truly feel for the subject to but you do not overwhelm the audience with the emotion. Where you want to highlight the importance of your message with proper usage of body language and tone of voice, but do not start falling over or crying on a stage or in a corporate board room.

Sadly,  a typical corporate presentation is at the scale of emotions somewhere at one or two, where almost all emotion has been suppressed. The problem here is that if the presenter, in his body language and tone of voice, does not show genuine interest himself in what he is telling, the audience detects this very quickly and switches off. And this leads to a great deal of WOMBAT (waste of money, brains and time) every day all over the world.

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Sadly, this is the prototype of ”emotional” in the corporate context

And for all those who are not maybe that comfortable with the ways to incorporate emotion in presentations and would like to learn it, Toastmasters comes in great assistance. It  provides a positive and supportive environment where you can rehearse, take things to the extreme and even make mistakes without having to suffer any dire social consequences. John’s advise is that when you transfer these skills from Toastmasters (or other training environment) to corporate environment you should  be aware of toning them down a couple of notches.

I will post more remarks from discussions with John Zimmer in coming weeks.