Sunday, August 31, 2014

President's Weekly Letter #103

Presentation Skills
I wrecked my dad’s car when I was 17 years old.  I had slowed quite rapidly to turn at an intersection in Fillmore, Utah when a school mate driving behind me plowed into the back of me.  Actually, I was unaware someone was following so close.  I received the ticket for a reckless turn.  My dad took things calmly and was glad no one was hurt.  But, in his patented, calm but firm demeanor, I knew he was unhappy with me about the accident.  I think it was my respect for him that resulted in my always learning without his lecturing or raising his voice.  He then suggested we protest the ticket because there is never a time someone can ram their car into a car in front of them and blame the driver in the front vehicle.  It was, in his opinion, an open and shut case of the other driver driving too fast for the conditions.

At the court hearing, the judge asked me to approach the bench and explain what happened and to answer his questions.  I remember leaning on a table and looking at the floor while talking.  I never addressed him as “Your Honor” and I slouched as I walked, talked and leaned.  As we left the court house, my father let me know that my presentation skills were horrible and disrespectful.  He explained what I should have done.  I never forgot my lesson and tried from then on to have poise and respect when presenting.  We won the case, by the way.

Years later at Sunrise Engineering, out of necessity, I continued improving my presentation skills.  Much of our work came from doing projects for clients who selected their engineering firm for each project by requesting written proposals from interested firms.  They then short-list 3 firms from those who submitted to present themselves before a selection committee which decided on a winner and negotiated a contract.  It was raw competition with one winner and the rest losers.  Winning our share was critical because we could not stay in business without contracts.  I learned that presentation was everything.

Studies have shown the overall communication process for an average person is:
  7% Words Spoken
55% Visual
38% Voice
I call the combination of the impact of your words, visual and voice your presentation skills.  

Everyone makes prejudgments about people based on first impressions.  We are told not to pre-judge but it is an instinct that has always been part of human nature.  It follows then that people we meet pre-judge us based on their first impressions of us.  From the moment you walk into a room with a selection committee or a room with an investigator, you are being judged.  Immediately, your presentation can either enhance or distract.  We have only one chance to make a good first impression.

Likewise, in missionary work, you present the gospel to people every time you teach.  It would be a shame if, after all the effort you make and have made to be here, you mess up your presentation of the gospel when the chances come.  Your presentation of the gospel is a gift to them and it is vitally important that you win.  Good presentation skills are life skills as well.

If you are serious about what you do, you must strive to improve your ability to effectively communicate.  Words spoken are only 7% of your communication, yet you may spend (and probably need to spent) most of your practice time on the words you plan to speak.  But, should you not also, at least, be aware of and work to improve these other parts of presentation that represent the remaining 93% of communication?  I know the spirit teaches and converts but good visual and voice give the spirit a better chance to testify because your investigators will not be distracted by poor presentation.  Good presentation will enhance their experience with the spirit.  

VISUAL.  The visual content of communication is essentially the body language of looking confident and eliminating distracting habits that people see on our countenance and in our presentation.  This consists of posture, stance, gestures, eye contact and facial expressions.  Good posture can best be remembered by:  tuck you rear, roll your shoulders back and lift the imaginary string tied to the top of your head.  Your stance should be attentive.  Arms and hands at your side or in a natural place but not folded.  Do not play with keys or coins, pick at your face or use other nervous releases.  Hand gestures from the head signal intellectual, from the chest signal heart-felt and from the lower chest signals trust.  Genuine and reasonable facial expressions make you interesting to listen to.  Good posture, lifting your chin, cheerful, smiling, natural gestures and steady eye contact are always a must to look confident and present effectively.  

Be who you are; do not try to be who you are not.  You do not need to be some Hollywood actor, but many of you can develop more animation with the 5 components of visual communication which would greatly enhance your effectiveness in preaching the gospel.

VOICE.  Voice content includes:  pitch, pace, pause, inflection and volume.  Nobody likes to listen to a monotone or a high pitch or pitch and inflection that indicate a question after every sentence.  In music, pitch is tone.  Points can be greatly reinforced if pace is fluctuated.  Pauses are powerful.  Pauses give you time to collect your thoughts, your investigator time to think and feel and pauses give points time to sink in.  Inflection makes you more interesting to listen to and changes the whole meaning of sentences.  For example, the statement, “I notice people look at me where ever I go,” takes on different meanings if stated with pride or with paranoia.  Volume variation emphasizes points.  Adding your dramatized version while reading children stories is a great way to develop the 5 components of voice in communication and would enhance your effectiveness in preaching the gospel.

The sons of Helamen, Nephi and Lehi, preached:

“…with great power, insomuch that they did confound many of those dissenters…Nephi and Lehi did preach unto the Lamanites with such great power and authority, for they had power and authority given unto them that they might speak, and they also had what they should speak given unto them.  Therefore they did speak unto the great astonishment of the Lamanites, to the convincing them…”  (Helaman 5:17, 18-19)

Teaching is your presentation while communicating doctrine for conversion.  

“Our purpose is to teach the message of the restored gospel in such a way as to allow the Spirit to direct both the missionaries and those being taught.” (PMG p. 29)

I cannot visualize members of the Quorum of 12 Apostles or Nephi and Lehi preaching with success while using sloppy or distracting visual and voice presentation quirks and habits.  You need to become good at what you do and what you have control over.  You cannot control the spirit, but you can learn the PMG lessons, purify yourselves so you are eligible for the spirit and work hard.  The hard work should include improving your presentation skills to enhance your effectiveness in teaching.

Follow-up at Sunrise Engineering after presenting at a selection interview often went like this:  “Your team came in with 3 or 4 ideas that really wet our whistle by showing us what could be done with our project.  Congratulations, you are hired.”  What this statement really says is; your presentation is about them not you.  You need to blow their hair back.  People need to understand that they can receive forgiveness of sin and begin walking the path that brings lasting happiness here and in the eternities by receiving the fullness of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.
President Robinson

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