How to sound interesting in presentations: by telling the toucan

One of the recurring questions when I do live training is “how to sound interesting during presentations“.

Well one part of the problem is that people sometimes think that their content is boring, so they protect themselves from how the audience will react by being boring, so they can subconsciously explain away their boredom. They undermine their chances of a successful presentation by having a full-on apologetic approach. They almost try to bore their audiences!

On the other hand, some people just have voices (or think they have voices) that aren’t as interesting as they like. That’s almost inevitably based on a mis-understanding of what they sound like (see here for more information on why we hate seeing and hearing ourselves in recordings of our presentations!) but for a smaller set of people they have just developed some un-engaging vocal habits.

There’s a lot we can do (and say, obviously) about this, but here’s a quick and dirty video that covers one of the tools we recommend for when you practice your delivery
Book cover image
Go Tell it to the Toucan – a family favourite when my kids were, well… kids

If you’d rather read than listen, the transcript of the video is below. I’ve slightly modified it to make it flow better in a blog 🙂

I’m quite often asked after live training courses about how you make yourself sound more interesting because there are people who’ve kind of got into the habit of mumbling a little bit at work. They don’t want to stick out and stuff. And then suddenly, when they have to go on stage, those habits serve them very badly.
So here is an embarrassingly simple exercise that you can do. It’s an exaggeration, of course. It’s an exaggeration, so don’t take it too literally, but it involves this kind of thing. I want you to ask yourself, when you were reading stories to kids, either your own kids or borrow somebody else’s or whatever, you don’t … Hang on, I’ll read it to you. Okay, so it’s called Go Tell It to The Toucan by Colin West.

What you don’t do is this. You don’t go, “‘Hey, today’s my birthday,'” thought the elephant one morning. ‘I’ll go tell it to the toucan so then he can tell everybody all about my birthday party, and we’ll have a jamboree.'”
No, no. You do the voices, don’t you? You do it larger than life. You do it slow. You do it with a bit of performance. Embarrassing though it might sound when you’re on stage, that’s what you need to do because it won’t come across to the audience in that way.

So here we go. Here’s take two. “‘Hey, today is my birthday,’ thought the elephant one morning. ‘I’ll go tell it to the toucan so then he can tell everybody all about my birthday party, and we’ll have jamboree.'”

Now, of course I’m exaggerating, but as an exercise to kind of break you out of that mumbling kind of habit, there’s quite a lot to it. Oh, you can just see stuff over there over there. Look at that. Silly, isn’t it? But it attracts your attention, doesn’t it? And what we’re talking about here is the verbal equivalent of that. We’re talking about something that grabs your audience’s attention and gets them to listen to what you’re saying. So I kind of hope that’s useful. Thank you.

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