Recently I presented my full-day Presentation Transformation seminar to a group of highly talented executives at NatCon18, the national convention for behavioral health experts.
Early in the day unfolded, I noticed one woman knitting in the back of the room. It wasn’t a distraction. It was amazing. She did it effortlessly, without even thinking about it. And it didn’t distract her attention. It was part of who she was.
A few minutes later, one of the men in the group shared that he was an accomplished photographer. Another woman talked about her passion for dogs.
During a break, I had an amazing conversation about wine with one of the attendees. He knew a lot about wine. Another woman knew so much about southern cooking she made me hungry.
Another woman had lived and worked around the world—in places we don’t often think about, like Kosovo.
By the end of the day, the exchanges had revealed what I wanted everyone in the room to grasp: We all have special talents and abilities.
Some people can smile and light up a room.
Some people can pull off card tricks.
Some people can paint or draw.
Some can do impersonations.
Some can fly planes.
Some play guitar.
We All Have Aces In Our Deck
I’m a big believer that we all have unique abilities. I call them the aces in your deck.
If you were playing poker and there was a big pot on the table, you would want the dealer to give you an ace—or two, thank you.
Audiences feel the same way. Audiences love it when a presenter pulls an ace from his or deck and plays it.
What Are Your Aces?
We all have aces in our deck. The problem is too often we take them for granted.
The woman who was knitting during my presentation could use a knitting demonstration during one of her presentations. Think of all the ways she could use it:
- Demonstrate the benefits of repeating an activity over and over
- Show how each individual activity fits into a larger plan
- Give an example of how raw material in the right hands can become far more than what it appears
- Demonstrate how output can never outpace input
You get the idea. Using knitting during a presentation can help make a point even when you aren’t talking about knitting.
Finding Your Aces
You don’t have to wait for someone to deal you aces. You already have them. You just have to start using them.
Write out a list of your unique talents or interests.
- Have you hiked the Appalachian Trail?
- Are you a vegetarian?
- Do you rock climb?
- Did you grow up with a father who was an NFL coach (one of my aces)?
- Did your mom run for mayor of your hometown.
- Are you a black belt in karate?
- Have you run a marathon?
Think about how you spend your free time. What are you passionate about? What really makes your heart sing?
How to Play Your Aces
Now, dare to bring that passion to the front of the room in your next presentation. It doesn’t matter if your passion is directly related to the topic of your presentation. Your passion helps to bring the authentic you to the front of the room and your passion/talents are the perfect way to use stories and examples to either open your presentation or make key points.
Here’s an example:
I always teach audiences to limit their key points and subpoints in a presentation to no more than three. You don’t have to use three, just don’t use more than three. The reason is audiences won’t remember more than three key points, so why give them more than they can handle? Often, when you go past three, you either dilute your impact or make a mess of things.
To make that point, I will teach someone how to juggle.
Juggle one ball, well, that gets boring.
Juggle two, more interesting, but not that challenging.
Juggle three, now we’re talking about the need for skill and focus.
Juggle four—something I can’t do or teach—and the balls go flying everywhere. It all comes apart. Just like a presentation that tries to make too many points.
Your Aces Help You Stand Apart
Everyone has PowerPoint. Everyone can hold or wear a microphone. Everyone can put on nice clothes. Those things don’t help you stand apart from the crowd when you stand in the front of the room for a presentation, meeting, or speech.
But your talent for doing complex math, knitting, juggling, spelling, flying, cooking, or any of your other aces will help you stand out from the crowd.
And here’s the bonus payoff: When you bring something to the front of the room that you are comfortable doing, it makes you more comfortable and that always improves the quality of your presentation.
I encourage you, heck, I beg you: Dare to bring your passion, your pastime, your aces to the front of the room. I promise it will help you connect with your audience.
It will help you get key points across faster and more effectively, and it will add depth and interest to your presentation in ways PowerPoint never will.
So what are you waiting for? There’s a big pot at stake and the audience really wants you to give them an ace.