Remove Your Cloak

When I think of chivalry in its truest form, I recall the image of someone being willing to help another save face when approaching a difficult situation. If there is a puddle between the unprotected and their destination, a chivalrous person would remove their outer layer – their own cloak – lay it down directly over the puddle and then take the hand of the unprotected while guiding them over the cloak.

With chivalry we help someone save face (or foot) while they step precariously into a treacherous zone. Our goal is to help them emerge without a scratch or a flaw in the end.

In the presentation world many speakers attempt this set-up yet they fall short. We have heard the adage, tell’em what you’re going to tell’em, tell’em and then tell’em what you’ve told’em. This stays in our mind as a way of creating structure for an otherwise unstructured event. It’s the table of contents, so to speak, for a communication form that doesn’t usually have one. A table of contents gives us a glance at what to expect.

I have heard professional speakers decry, “For goodness sake, don’t just launch into your presentation. At least warm up the audience first.” Here is an attempt at chivalry. Yet the same speakers offer meak means. They suggest “make nice” gestures such as Say goodmorning, Thank the coordinator, Give the audience a chance to adjust thier positions while they get used to you. To me these actions are little more than pointing to a puddle and saying, “look out” but offering no physical or emotional support in navigating it.

Speakers, remove your cloak. Your audience, seated where they are, can see you are addressing a topic that many of them struggle with. (for the most part, that’s the case with what we presenters do – we address topics of growth or enlightenment) Simply bringing it to them is like dropping them off in front of puddles and saying “jump!”.

In the opening of your presentation, it’s important to not only provide a roadmap for how you are navigating them through. It’s important you take the time to assist them over the hardest part. I call this addressing the elephant in the room.

I usually pose 2 questions in my introductions. The first is to unify the audience to the topic at hand. In many of my presentations the topic addresses communication, whether public speaking or other forms. My first question will be something like “How many of you believe communication is key to your business-building success?” To this, almost all audience raise their hands. This unifies them with me. Their attitude in focusing is positive.

My second question addresses the elephant in the room, helping me to take my cloak off to come to their aid. “How many of you know exactly how to communicate for effective business-building?” And to this question, most hesitate. Immediately I come to their aid with a statement of apology “I am not trying to make you feel bad. Instead, I want you to know this is a struggle we all go through. To ease this struggle of yours I will share with you today a technique of 3 key practices to help make your communication lead to effective business-building. With my 2nd question I have removed my cloak – taken myself from safe, protected territory to the position of “taking the fall”.

From my introduction I lead immediately into the nature of our struggles, the status quo of our efforts, and point to the hope all the audience has of better experiences ahead. This is the moment when I actually put down my cloak for the unprotected. Until then they know not how they are crossing the threshold. Now they know and begin to cross with me.

It’s not enough to tell’em what you’re going to tell ’em. Support them. Address the elephant in the room by taking off your own cloak. Then lay it at their feet in a chivalrous fashion to help them save face in their travels of your message. It simply takes time and willingness to serve. Many say chivalry is a lost art. Come to well-designed presentations. You’ll see it.

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On February 7th, 2012, posted in: chivalry, Honing your message, presentation by
4 Responses to Remove Your Cloak
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  2. Remove Your Cloak…

    GREAT POST I want hear more from your blog, thank you!…

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