Presentation Skills: The Simplest Approach Ever to Improvement

Presentation Skills: KAR Image Cover

Entering “self-help public speaking” in Google brings back 18,200,000 results.

Entering “public speaking” in Amazon.com brings back 23,750 results.

That is a lot of information. My guess is that there are a lot of “simple” strategies floating around in print and online. Have you ever noticed how many of these step-by-step solutions turn out to be incredibly complicated and lengthy?

Here is one of my personal favorites.

“Follow these 5 steps to become/achieve XYZ.” You open the book and each step is divided into various “parts”. Within each “part” is a collection of modules. Adding up each step and its accompanying parts and modules could amount to 5 verrrrry long steps.  That seems to be the norm.

A Case for Simplicity

So in the spirit of beautiful simplicity, I am introducing a model for improving your presentation skills that is built on the notion of minimalism. I am stripping your presentation success down to three things.

If you do these three things over and over in a cyclical fashion, you will improve your ability to deliver exceptional seminars, meetings, webinars or anything else you do which involves your mouth moving in front of others.   

Introducing KAR

This model will get you from public speaking point A to B in a smooth and effective manner. *I couldn’t resist creating a model with letters that spell out something cheesy, yet functional.*    

Kidding aside, this model is something I strongly believe in and guides much of what I am trying to promote week in and week out here at passionfp.com. It will also be the focus of this post.  

3  Simple Steps

1   ⇒   Knowledge           

2   ⇒   Action           

3   ⇒   Review

Step 1 is the seeking out of “KNOWLEDGE”. Step 2 is all about taking “ACTION(s)” to try out new techniques. Step 3 is a “REVIEW” process which aims to ensure progress is being made. The steps are cyclical and nature and repeat themselves until true improvement is cemented. Let’s have a look at each element a little more closely.

Step 1:

Knowledge, as it pertains to this model and presentations, is the actual information covering a specific skill you are trying to improve.  Now, in searching out knowledge, we are less concerned with theory and more keyed in on practicality. Resources that are heavy on directives which allow you to test or experiment for yourself are the gold we seek. Let’s go with the skill of “storytelling” as an example. We would want the resource to give us a brief overview of why it’s important and a lot of clear pieces of information that tell us specifically how to go about the art of storytelling.   

Step 2:

Action refers to specific things a person does to act on the knowledge they are learning. Relating to the example skillset of storytelling again, what action is a person taking to improve this ability?  Is the first action buying a book, going to a seminar, purchasing an online course, etc.? Returning to our storytelling skill-set example, what action do we need to initially take when we want to integrate a story into an actual presentation?   

Step 3:

Review references the activities a person does to monitor his or her progress. How is the person checking to ensure that his or her approach to storytelling is effective? This step is all about ensuring that your efforts are being maximized and not wasted.

Easy right?

KAR is as simple as it gets. I like to think of it as a plug and play in that you self-identify what you want to improve and you simply throw particular skill sets into it—storytelling, making eye-contact, using your hands, etc—and it will churn out results for you if you are honest in your efforts.  

So let’s fire this up this KAR engine and take it for a literary spin using another example.  In doing so, I hope to expose you to a few more fundamental aspects of this model. Before you jump in, snag the KAR Skill Development Planner found below. Consider it a map to that’ll direct you towards speaking success.

Click here to download my "KAR SKILL DEVELOPMENT PLANNER

Skillset to address   ⇒   Public Speaking Fear

Step 1: KNOWLEDGE

Find a great resource on how to deal with presentation fear and nerves. Again, our intention here is to find detailed information that is heavy on actionable content. We want minimal theory here.

However, I do offer up a word of caution towards actionable resources. Let’s say you find a book that contains over fifty different techniques on how to handle your nerves.  

Having all of these possibilities to play with is great but unfortunately, our KAR model efficacy is directly linked up to human cognitive capacities. You will not be able to implement or track all of them at once.

So the ideal thing to do here would be to read through the list of tips and techniques contained in the resource you found and select between 1-3 pieces of advice to try out initially.  Reason being is that if we have too many variables to play with, we will not be able to identify what worked or failed us in Step 3 – Review.

Here is a BIG hint. When choosing initial tips to try out, be sure to select advice that resonates with you. Maybe you are a fitness-minded person, so the suggestion of a brisk walk accompanied with some deep breathing could be a good match for you in addressing your nerves. Something as simple as that could do wonders for that type of individual. Conversely, trying something that appears very strange to you –at least initially—could actually add to the pressure and nerves you presently deal with.   

After identifying the 2-3 actions, you would be moving into Step 2 – Action.

Step 2: ACTION

This step is not overly complicated. You simply enact the decided upon approaches from Step One. You can do this by succinctly writing them out in such a way that indicates to yourself that you have a new plan of attack towards addressing the problem area. Have a look below to see how simple this is:

Technique 1:

Rehearsal Planning: “I will devote to a total of xx amount of minutes to presentation rehearsal. The breakdown will be allotted as follows…”

Technique 2:

Brisk Walk: “I will take a 10-15 minute power walk around the block in the final hour before the presentation.

Technique 3:

Breathing: “I will engage in XYZ breathing during my walk and 10 minutes before going on stage.

The key is being deliberate and honest in your approach. Once decided, there is absolutely no point in going about the technique in a half-hearted manner. For if this occurs, the integrity of the entire process is at risk.

Step 3: REVIEW

This step represents being thoughtful in reflecting on the results. Quite simply, you want to have an idea as to how you fared–performance wise–after enacting your Action steps.  In an ideal world, this feedback would derive from two separate sources; namely yourself in the form of self-review and from that of a trusted friend or colleague.  Those two types of review ought to give you a very solid base of information to chart a new course of action.

One final point regarding this REVIEW step is as follows. You want to try to be mindfully engaged and noticing your thoughts relating to the techniques not only in this step but also in the ACTION step as well. More succinctly, if you can try to gauge your feelings and level of comfort with the new techniques during the Action steps, you will have a better idea of what to change, if you don’t achieve the results you desire.

So what do you do if the results weren’t there?

First off, don’t panic. This is all part of the process. Installing new habits and techniques is not always smooth. The basic notion is to think back to your REVIEW step and notice what felt “right” or even lead to an incremental improvement.

If that walk really helped you clear your mind just before the presentation, I would make a mental note to do that again before the next presentation. If the breathing did not have a noticeable effect, this would not necessarily be a reason to drop it. There is too much scientific knowledge backing it as a sound technique. Perhaps more practice or a different approach to addressing that skill is required.

If you achieved the results you desired…

Terrific! Congratulations! Now, remember to repeat that exact process the next time and pay careful attention if it delivers equally satisfying results. If so, you may be ready to move onto a new skill set to address.

Finally, to close out this post, I have compiled a few more useful tips for getting the most out of KAR.

DO’S & DON’TS:

DO→  Make a list of skill-sets to address. Systematically go after one at a time until each is honed.

DO→  Address major skill set issues first. For example, if presentation anxiety is an issue for you, that would be the number one place to start. For example, trying to improve your physicality before figuring out how to effectively handle nerves would be counter-intuitive.

DO→  Give more credence to advice that is scientifically proven to help. An example would be deep breathing to manage nerves. More patience and effort towards developing these techniques would be recommended.

DO→  Choose your knowledge resources wisely. As noted, select books that are heavy on practical activities you can implement. If you are unsure if the skill is important enough to warrant practice, simply Google it.  The plethora of blog posts covering it will give you a good idea as to whether it is something you ought to address.

DON’T→  Do not skip over the REVIEW step. Aside from destroying my cheesy KAR model acronym, you would be dealing a harsh blow to your own efforts of actually improving. Remember, we want our next step decisions at the end of the KAR cycle to be based on solid information.

DON’T→  Do not assume that once you have mastered the skill that you will never have to address it again. The reality is that you have not mastered it but rather improved to a point in which you are performing at a much higher level. Don’t see that as negative. View this achievement as a new stage in a never-ending game of making yourself stronger and better. The idea is to keep leveling up in all facets of presentation –and life of course.    

DON’T→  I would avoid purchasing too many comprehensive books that cover all aspects of presentations. Those books tend to be watered down when it comes to addressing individual skill sets. Your money and efforts are better spent on resources that devote themselves to one particular area of study.   


So there you have it. I challenge you to choose a particular skill set you want to work on and start addressing it. I have provided you a KAR for zipping along on your own road to presentation self-improvement. *Yes, the cheesy lines continue right to the end folks.*

Freebies, Freebies and MORE Freebies!

If you are unsure as to where to begin or want ideas on some particular skills you could address, you are in luck. I have created a KAR inspired skill development planner for you. Within it, you will find an extensive list of skills you can address, and even make notes on. Grab it below! 

Click here to download my "KAR" SKILL DEVELOPMENT PLANNER

Within the same workbook, I have put together a list of goal orientated apps that you can use to schedule, plan and address your presentation skill development. 

As always, I’d be honored if you shared your comments or felt inspired enough to blast any part of this post out into the social sphere!