Over the past ten years, I’ve watched a small, sleepy city in Eastern Europe wake and grow up. Its beautiful medieval Old Town is now surrounded with gorgeous glass buildings 20- and 30-stories tall hosting some of Europe’s–and the world’s–fastest growing businesses.

At a population of around half-a-million, Vilnius, Lithuania is one of the future cities of Europe. My friend Simon Black, the founder of Soverign Man, and the gentleman who’s dragged me there for the last ten years calls it “one of my favorite cities in the world.”

I agree.

The city’s youth are well educated. They speak multiple languages fluently (Lithuanian, Russian, and English). It has everything I personally look for in the best of North American cities (state-of-art fitness centers, organic food shops, and a wide variety of restaurants serving everything from great Mexican to great Italian, as well as Thai, sushi, and the gourmet burger joints so popular in my hometown of Toronto).

But ten years ago when I first visited you would have described Vilnius as “Soviet”. It still hadn’t stepped out from “behind-the-iron-curtain” and had its coming-out party. Today, thanks to its forward-thinking leaders, Vilnius is attracting the headquarters of companies like Swedbank, and its economy is the 2nd biggest in the Baltic states.

The reason why I share this is because my personal evolution has mirrored that of Vilnius.

In 2009 when I first started teaching at my friend Simon’s annual “BlackSmith Liberty and Entrepreneurship Camp” here in Trakia, a tourist town just outside of Vilnius, I was still socially awkward, succumbing to my introverted tendencies, and in relevance of today’s teaching session, a terrible, boring, monotone speaker. (The camp, by the way, was named BlackSmith for the two founders, Simon Black and Matt Smith – Matt is my business partner here at ETR.)

But like Vilnius, I decided to grow up. Since arriving jet-lagged, discombobulated and shy at the first camp on Aug 5th, 2010, I’ve experienced a dramatic personal transformation.

Like Vilnius, my greatness is no longer held inside old walls. My personality, like the Vilnius city center gleams with bright, shiny new additions.

And each year at the camp, I began to develop my skills as a speaker and presenter. I did this by hiring coaches, attending seminars and studying not only What was said, but how the great presenters said it. At home I’d spend hours on YouTube watching pastors, comedians, and TedTalkers (is that a word, haha) to try and crack the public speaking code.

After more than a decade of hard work, I’ve now become known for my high-energy videos and engaging presentations. Just as Vilnius has changed, so too have I completely transformed myself as a presenter and today, I’m going to show you how I did it.

Whether you want to speak professionally, become a better presenter for your webinars and online events, or learn how to create more compelling video content, these seven tips will help you do it.

1. Don’t Be an Expert. Be the Expert

I recently attended one of Grant Cardone’s sales boot camps. At 9:30am he took the stage and spoke for four hours straight. He told story after story and delivered insight after insight, barely pausing to catch his breath. I swear he didn’t even take a sip of water till we broke for lunch after 1:30 pm.

Cardone had no powerpoint presentation. No notecards. No teleprompter. No outline. And he didn’t need them.

After three and a half decades in the world of high ticket sales, Grant is the sales expert. He has a wealth of experience and real-world stories from which he can draw to illustrate his points and prove the credibility of what he’s teaching.

This is where most presenters get it wrong. It certainly was the case for me over a decade ago.

We put the cart before the horse and try to give killer presentations on topics which we know very little about (think: 22-year-old “life coaches” and motivational speakers).

Listen, 80% of giving a great presentation is being intimately familiar with the topic on which you’re presenting. When you are an expert in your field and know your content better than anyone else, a killer presentation becomes inevitable.

When I first started giving speeches and presentations, I was terribly robotic. I was one of those dreadful “read every word on the screen” speakers – you know the type, the ones with 250 words per slide who essentially read a speech to you.

It was horrible. I shared regurgitated information that everyone knew because I didn’t have enough personal experience to come up with a novel idea. Today, after twenty years of experience and building five million dollar businesses, I can deliver killer presentations on productivity, Instagram sales, email marketing, mindset and motivation, and of course high-performance health & fitness with less than 3-minutes of prep time.

So if you’re struggling to speak and present at the level you want, start by doubling down on your expertise. Gain as much real-world experience as possible and I promise, the quality of your presentations will change forever.

2. Be the “Energizer Bunny”

During the early days of my Turbulence Training business, I recorded a video on YouTube that has been viewed more than 2 million times.

Normally, this would be pretty cool, but there was one small problem with this particular video. It was atrocious – unless you were looking for a cure of insomnia… in which case it was brilliant.

My delivery was robotic, my posture was stiff, and my energy was non-existent. “How is a corpse talking?” you might think while watching it.

At the time I believed the lie that I just “wasn’t good at video”. That I was a “low energy introvert” and that was just the way it was and there was nothing I could do about it.

Today, I know that energy and enthusiasm are skills. And like any other skills, they can be developed with time and practice. And if you look at my Instagram or YouTube videos today, I’m an entirely different person from the boring fitness guy people saw ten years ago. In fact, in 2013, using my newly polished speaking skills, I put a 5-minute fitness video that today has over 4 million views (of one video!).

I’m high energy, excited, and enthusiastic (even when I don’t “feel” it) because I put in the time to develop my inner Energizer Bunny. Today I even have YouTube videos with tens of thousands of views where I teach you how to have more energy. LINK

If you want to improve the quality of your speeches and presentations, captivate your audience, and build a reputation as an on-stage powerhouse, you must bring the energy. As I tell my speaking students, bringing the energy and having enthusiasm can make up for many other deficiencies in your presentations.

Get excited about the presentation you’re giving. Be charismatic. Move, gesticulate, and get into it. Use strong vocal tonality, learn to include a few jokes (bonus points for self-deprecating humor), be more engaged and alive…and your presentations will be 10x more impactful and engaging.

3. Practice Makes the Master

When Tony Robbins first began his career as a public speaker, he did something “weird”.

While all of his co-workers and peers scheduled two to three presentations each week, Tony would give 2-3 presentations a day. He understood that repetition is the mother of mastery and committed himself to an insane speaking schedule that allowed him to compress a decades worth of practice into twelve short months.

And the results speak for themselves. Today, Tony is regarded as one of, if not the greatest public speaker on the planet.

The formula for becoming a better speaker and presenter (as is the case with any skill) is simple.

Give more speeches and presentations. Learn from them. Improve. Repeat.

I call this the “Virtuous Cycle for Getting Better at Anything”.

That’s it.

It doesn’t matter how many courses you buy, books you read, or coaches you hire. If you aren’t practicing your skill as a presenter on a weekly (preferably daily) basis you will never achieve the levels of mastery that you desire.

So start today.

Sign up for ToastMasters. I once encouraged one of my most timid female coaching clients, at age 55 (a life stage where most folks say they are too old to change), join Toastmasters. A month later she won a speaking contest, and today her confidence – both personally and professionally – has changed as dramatically as mine.

Other ideas: Start a local mastermind and give a new speech each week. Talk to your mirror-like DeNiro in the classic movie, Taxi. Give presentations to your wall if you have to! The more you speak and present, the better you will become and the faster you will master the skills you need to master.

4. Find Role Models and Mirror their Style

One of the fastest ways to improve any skill is to study the masters of that skill.

If you want to improve your copywriting, study David Ogilvy, Claude Hopkins, and Gary Halpert.

If you want to improve your closing rate, study Grant Cardone, Tom Hopkins, Lisa Sasevich, Brian Tracy, and Zig Ziglar.

And if you want to improve your presentations, study the greatest speakers of all time and draw from a wide variety of inspirations.

In my own life, I’ve studied everyone from comedians like Dave Chapelle and Louis C.K. and Sarah Silverman to motivational speakers like Brendon Burchard and Tony Robbins and Carrie Wilkerson to pastors like Steven Furtick and Joel Osteen. I’ve learned different things from all of these people and combined them all together to create a presenting style that is uniquely my own.

To become a great presenter, you must study the greatest presenters and speakers of our time and dissect their presentations to figure out what sets them apart.

In the same way that you can’t write the next great American Novel without first reading the works of Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, King, and Vonnegut, you cannot become a truly exceptional speaker without experiencing great presentations first hand.

Make a list of role models you can learn from and spend 30-60 minutes a week watching and learning from their performances.

Go on YouTube and watch Tony Robbins present at Date with Destiny. Use Netflix productively by binge-watching stand-ups from the greatest comedians. Attend a live event (like my upcoming Perfect Life Retreat) and pay attention to which speakers you like the most and why.

Dig a deep well of references and ideas that you can draw from and your skills as a presenter and speaker will grow exponentially.

5. Create Your “One Act Play”

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.

The greatest speakers don’t try and share 100 different ideas inside of a single presentation. Instead, they typically share one idea in an insightful and creative way.

They have a “one-act play” that opens and closes with the same central theme.

At my last Perfect Life Retreat, my friend Joel Marion took the stage for nearly 90-minutes. And during his fireball presentation, everything he taught centered around the same idea: If you want to grow your business fast, you must pay to play (e.g. advertising, affiliate commissions, paid traffic etc.)

Similarly, Bedros delivered a 60-minute presentation that can be summarized in one sentence: Leadership is the problem, leadership is the solution.

My own presentation followed suit and everything I shared revolved around the idea that “Structure equals freedom.”

Tim Grover, the former personal trainer of Michael Jordan back during the Chicago Bulls dynasty, spent 90 minutes teaching our attendees how to build a Relentless mindset so that they could be a “Cleaner” (his term for high-performer) in every area of life. It ended with one of the most unforgettable QnA sessions in the history of live events – but that’s another story for another time 🙂

When you set out to create your next killer presentation, remember to keep it simple.

You don’t need a ton of ideas to deliver a great presentation. You need one idea delivered in a compelling and creative way.

6. Be Incongruent to Keep Your Audience Engaged

The human brain is wired to pay attention to incongruence.

Your attention is always drawn to the thing that is the most unusual and that deviates the most from your expectations. This is why dating coaches instruct men to wear flamboyant and off the wall outfits (also known as “Peacocking”) to attract the attention of women. It’s why otherwise conservative speakers will punctuate a powerful point with profanity. And it’s why, when you’re stuck in traffic, you pay more attention to a Ferrari than a Honda.

And knowing this simple “human trick” gives you a powerful tactic to improve your presentations.

Whenever I take the stage at live events, I will randomly break into interpretive dance or tell the story about the first time I tried to use a broom (and spent ten minutes looking for the “on” button).

The reason is simple. No one expects those things from the “world’s most productive man.” And this incongruence breaks the expected pattern and keeps the audience engaged.

If you want to give more powerful and persuasive presentations, do the unexpected and be incongruent.

7. Keep it Tight

Woodrow Wilson was once asked by a reporter how long it takes him to prepare for his speeches. He responded by saying:

“It depends. If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”

Similarly, Mark Twain famously stated, “I apologize for writing such a long letter. I didn’t have the time to write a short one.”

The most challenging aspect of giving a killer presentation is not coming up with enough content to fill the time. It’s ruthlessly eliminating the unnecessary and redundant and speaking with precision.

To be a truly great speaker, you must be concise. You must say only what needs to be said and avoid long winded tangents and diatribes.

The next time you are preparing for a presentation, I want you to look at what you’ve written and then cut it in half. Take some time away from it then come back and cut it in half again.

Repeat this process until only the best stories and lessons remain and you will stand head and shoulders above every other speaker.

Conclusion

Every January I start to plan my annual to Europe, and part of me looks forward to the 2-3 days I’ll spend in Vilnius. It’s like checking in on a younger sibling to see how they have grown, matured and stepped into their greatness.

Likewise, every time I speak at an event the host pulls me aside and says, “You get better every time. That was absolutely amazing.”

Considering where I started, it’s practically a miracle. But it proves that no matter where you start, no matter what “iron curtain” you’re hiding behind now, that you can become better on stage and make a bigger impact every time you open your mouth.

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Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men's Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift to high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he'll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at craigballantyne.com

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