Public Speaking Lessons from Mr. Spock

Mr. Spock: Master of the Mind Meld
Sometimes, when I’m listening to a business presentation, I want to shout “Dude! This isn’t Star Trek. And you are not Mr. Spock.  So why don’t we stop with the mind meld?”

Let me explain.

“Star Trek” fans remember Mr. Spock as the ever-logical, emotionless, side-kick to Captain James T. Kirk on the Starship Enterprise.

He was actually half-human and half-Vulcan and had the ability to execute the “Vulcan Mind Meld”.

In a mind meld, Mr. Spock would put his fingers on your head in a mystical way and perfectly imprint his thoughts into your head (or vice versa).   It was almost like he were jamming a flash drive into your ear and downloading his brain’s data onto your mental hard drive.

Listeners Don’t Want a Mind Meld

Many business presenters seem to think that they are capable of performing a mind meld with their audience. They seem to think that their job as a presenter is to stand in front of the room with 60 slides and download all their information onto their listeners’ hard-drives.

They then deliver the messages in the same style as an emotionless Vulcan. These erstwhile Mr. Spocks seem to think that the audience will be able to take that information and come to the right conclusion.

But the whole purpose of a presentation is to take that mass of information and form it into a meaningful story. Then you have to deliver that story in a very un-Spock-like manner – with intensity.

Turn Your Data Into a Story

To turn your information into a story, the first step is to ask yourself “What kind of story does my audience want to hear?”  Business people usually want to hear your solution to their business problem.

Let’s say that the CEO is worried about the rising cost of manufacturing and you’re asked to give a presentation to her on the topic.  You should start your presentation by making it clear that you are going to tell a story about how to reduce manufacturing costs.

From there, you should look at all of your data and ask “What are the three most important things I want my audience to remember about how to reduce costs.”  Tell those three things quickly and then go into detail.

Deliver the Story with Energy

Too many people deliver their presentations like Mr. Spock, with a flat monotone, as if all that mattered were the logic and ideas.

But the way you deliver things matters a lot, according to UCLA Prof. Albert Mehrabian.  Dr. Mehrabian came to be seen as almost an anti-Spock when he published a now-famous study on the importance of style over substance.

The study found that in certain circumstances 55 percent of the impression you make is based on how you look while 38 percent of the impression you make is based on how you sound.  That leaves only 7 percent for the content.

I don’t want to take Dr. Mehrabian’s study too far. He was not studying business presentations. But his study does highlight that how we say things matter.

Even Mr. Spock, who had a human mother, would betray emotion once in a while with a raised eyebrow.  And those of us that are full-blooded humans need even more than a raised eyebrow. We want to hear passion in our speakers.

We don’t want a mind meld. We want a personal connection.

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