When you are public speaking or giving a presentation, the most important aspect is building rapport with your audience.
The whole point of your communication with an audience is to establish and maintain empathy and rapport. Should at any time you lose rapport, your line of communication is broken and your message is not getting through. At that time your number one priority is to establish rapport in any presentation.
This requires you to watch and listen to your audience at all times. Remember, a presentation is a two-way process. It is not just you spouting off what you think. That would turn into a boring lecture and people will zone out and cease to have interest in the information you are delivering.
Modalities – or how people communicate
You can generally inform people in three major ways or should I say using three primary sensory systems:
• Visually (V)
• Auditory (A) – sound
• Kinaesthetic (K) – feeling
Of course if you are a food preparation demonstrator you might inform people through the gustatory (G) – taste – systems. If you are perfumer you might communicate through the olfactory (O) – smell – system. So that makes five sensory systems that human beings experience and receive information through. Each system is called a modality.
We experience these five systems through external (e) stimulation, like the sight of a flow chart, sound of ourselves talking, touch of our hands, smell of baking bread and taste of strawberries. We also experience these sensory experiences through imagination internally (i).
External (e) modality exposure drives our experiences via what we are exposed to and internal (i) modality experiences is driven by suggestion and the creation of imagination, which is just as real and compelling to us.
The thought of strawberries >Vi+Oi+Gi+Ki = experience of imagined strawberries
Strawberries > Ve+Oe+Ge+Ke = eating strawberries
So experience is driven by both external exposure and internal imagination through suggestion. The suggestion may be auto-suggestion (suggestion to yourself) or through hetero-suggestion made to you by others or you to others.
As a presenter you need to be able to use both auto-suggestion to facilitate your own needs and hetero-suggestion to get your messages across to your audiences.
Presenters mainly focus on getting their messages across in the main modalities of V, A or K. It is generally believed that most people use those three primary modalities of communication. I would advise you, however, to use all five modalities when possible.
How most people communicate
Once you start to observe people you can see they have primary modality systems by which they operate and are motivated. Not only different people but also different groups of people respond more strongly or weakly to certain primary modalities.
Some people respond more to V cues and when you listen to them they use words that mainly include visual descriptions. For example:
Mandy with a visual (V) primary modality:
“So we are going to see a film tonight. I was looking in the newspaper to see what was showing at the cinema and I saw this great film advertised. I am really looking forward to going.”
Tony with an auditory (A) primary modality:
“Hey you sounded really upset on the phone. I’ll call around and speak to you. Let’s have a talk and see if we can sort things out.”
Hester with a kinaesthetic (K) primary modality:
“I feel so happy. The news about the sale of my house at a good price has taken some of the stress off my body. I was so depressed anticipating it might not sell at the auction.”
The words that people use which link them to that modality are called predicates. Predicates can have an order of importance with people, just as some people are more sensitive to suggestion in a particular modality over another.
For instance, the main communication styles are:
The first modality is their primary, then secondary, and third least used. Other people may have G or O as their primary modalities such as chefs or perfumers.
What can also happen is that people may change the order of their modality usage, sensitivity and prioritisation according the circumstances.
For instance, if you are addressing a crowd or audience who are mourning or celebrating they will be using their Ki as their primary modality. When presenting to accountants they are most influenced by Ve as they want to see the figures in black and white. If you are addressing musicians they will be very sensitive to the Ae modality but because they constantly listen to music and imagine it before they play it, they are also sensitive to Ai suggestions.
Listening to a person’s predicates to find their primary modality and considering what kind of people an audience is made up of allows you to determine what predicates you will use most to get your message across. It also empowers you about what language to use to persuade that group of people.
Changing the state of your audience
Sometimes you may want to change an audience’s attitude towards something or help them change their minds. There are two ways you can do this. The first is to communicate with them in their primary modality as you connect with them. This can help them understand things within their primary modality paradigms.
The second is more drastic. When people or crowds are upset or hostile they have moved into having Ki as their primary modality. All defensive behaviour is driven by Ki (feelings) and never logic. This is true for all of us when we become defensive about a set of ideas. To break that state you can move directly to another modality and approach your reasoning from another modality.
Selling an experience through modality appeal
There are some old tricks the bakers use to sell their goods. The first is that they design the bakery for the smell (Oe) from the kitchens to waft onto the street which draws in trade from the street – people who were just walking by incidentally. The second is that they take the old, stale bread that they did not sell yesterday, add dried fruit and water, re-bake it as bread pudding, which is very sweet, and put small samples of it free outside for people to taste (Ge), which also draws customers into their bakery.
When scientists present to each other they present visual (Ve) representations of their theories with an abundance of references in their works that support their hypothesis. Without those visual representations to which other scientists can refer, no other scientist will take them seriously. In science it is not what you say but what you can show that gives you credit.
Musicians are only impressed by the quality of the auditory (Ae) presentation you can produce. They will get over what you look like in a costume, how large an opera singer you might be, as long as you can produce that sound.
People listen to personal development presenters and judge them on how good that presenter can help them feel (Ki) during the presentation. The therapist’s job is to resolve internal conflict and induce good internal feelings (Ki).
In you learning to sell messages through using predicates from different modalities, you are selling your ideas. To a general audience who have a range of modality preferences, you can use a cross-section of predicates from all the modalities to motivate the audience’s experience both externally (e) and internally (i) through suggestion.
Inspire your audience
One of the arts of a good presenter is that they can not only relate information to their audience but can also inspire them. You want your audience to use their imagination to drive their internal sensory experience, which drives ideas and behaviours.
How you can physically present to your audience will always be limited. It may be good but it will be limited. You can deliver the entire external senses by any means you wish, such as fire walking, flow charts, flip charts, take-away visual representations, take-away audios and videos. What you need to do during the presentation, however, is change your audience’s internal experiences and fire their imaginations to understand and accept your messages.
To activate that imagination you can use your five sensory predicate styles and a series of stock standard phrases that help your audience go inside to their imagination and begin to construct those internal modality experiences:
“I wonder if you can see that inside your mind?”
“What would it be like if you could hear that sound inside your mind?”
“Join me for moment and feel how that would feel inside your body.”
“The taste of success is sweet and you can imagine how this project’s success would taste sweet as we pursue these strategies to take us towards that success.”
“Sometimes we have a nose for business and you can smell disaster on the horizon so perhaps we need to reconsider the way we are doing business to increase profitability.”
I am of course using what is called hypnotic language here, in that it is designed to motivate people to experience certain things and induce certain behaviours – which is what you are aiming to do with your presentation or speech.
You can experiment and make up your own phrases involving different modality statements to influence your audience.
See how they go down and what effects they have. Experiment and discover what statements work with what group. Do your research before your presentation to see if you can work out what predicates you need to use with each audience.
For more help with public speaking, book an appointment with me at my Sydney clinic by telephoning 02 8021 6429 or see my Public Speaking and Presentation Hypnosis downloadable program.
Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, BHSc, ND, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Psychotherapist. Counsellor, PACFA registered Mental Health Professional and Naturopath In Sydney. You can get help by booking an appointment with her at Australian Health & Education Centre.