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Part I: BEGINNINGS > INTERLUDE: Tom Mendoza's Lessons on Public Speaking

INTERLUDE: Tom Mendoza's Lessons on Public Speaking

Over the years Tom Mendoza has taught me a lot about public speaking. I've watched him work, asked him questions, and reverse engineered what he seemed to be doing.

In public speaking, most people focus too much on the data that they want to present to their audience. Whenever I asked Tom for advice, he would always ask how I wanted the audience to feel after my talk. At first, my answer would be something like, "I want them to feel that they understand all the issues and details about our plan for—" At this point Tom would interrupt: "Feelings are one word. Angry. Proud. You know, emotions." You are allowed to have a small phrase describing what the feeling is about. Disappointed—in our performance. Proud—of our new release.

Next, Tom would ask what action I wanted people to take after my presentation. "If you don't want them to do anything different, why are you wasting your time talking with them?" he explained. If you've reached an important milestone in a project, you might want people to feel proud of what they've accomplished so far, but to keep working hard until they're done. If a project is way off track, the feeling of disappointment could motivate people to accept and engage a new approach. If a competitor is beating you, perhaps anger will help drive action. The trick is to choose actions and emotions that naturally reinforce each other.

When you are clear about the feelings and actions that you hope to inspire, then—and only then—should you start to worry about the content, about what data to share to inspire those feelings. You could say, "I want you to feel excited about what you did," but it might work better to show the sales figures or product test results that prove people did a good job. Then the audience will naturally be excited. Or if the results are bad, naturally disappointed.

Presentations are much better when you start with feelings and actions. Good content is important, but it's only a tool. Feelings and actions are the goal.

At first, I struggled with Tom's method because I wanted to share too much information. Now I've learned to appreciate the elegance of finding the smallest amount of data required to drive the feelings and actions I want. For exhaustive detail, a Web site or white paper is a much better communication tool. Sometimes the action is go read the white paper. Even in a classroom setting, lectures don't replace textbooks.

Feeling. Action. Content.

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