I was standing in front of a roomful of corporate employees about to launch into my training session. I knew the course content had the potential to make a strong impact in their communication and relationships and I had some specific learning goals for the group. But I resisted the urge to dive straight in. Instead, I shared a brief but vivid story about a time the principles I was about to teach had produced an incredibly positive result for me. Only then did I transition to the learning objectives and the course content. Just before I finished, I referenced my story once again and encouraged them to use the new principles we had learned and highlighted an obvious way it would benefit them.
I learned the “Magic Formula” from Dale Carnegie. It involves three parts: an incident, an action and a benefit. Whether your presentation is two minutes long or an hour, the Magic Formula provides a reliable structure and clarifies the action we encourage the audience to take. Here’s how it works.
Last year I got the opportunity to write an article for Toastmaster Magazine. I put my heart and soul into writing a funny and helpful article that related my experiences in Army Special Operations training to the pressure of preparing a professional presentation on short notice. I learned one thing: if you’re fortunate enough to have an article featured in a publication with over 270,000 subscribers, someone is bound to read it! Even though the article ran in April, 2011, I recently received an email from a Toastmasters Club member in the UK saying how he’d like to organize a “stress test” speaking event, like I wrote about in the article.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve had a blast in my pursuit to become a competent public speaker. However, if I hadn’t practiced, I wouldn’t have been nearly as effective under pressure. That’s why I’ve invested in programs like Toastmasters and Dale Carnegie.
One of the ideas I really latched on to when I started taking leadership courses in graduate school was John Maxwell’s quote, “everything rises and falls on leadership.” But I was also challenged by a response my leadership friends came up with, that leadership rises and falls on communication. If they were right, then it didn’t matter what I learned about leadership if I couldn’t communicate it. A quick self-assessment revealed that I could write, converse, and lead small group discussions, but I lacked training and experience speaking in front of groups.
Right then and there I promised myself I would become a better public speaker.