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Presenter Types — How can “Counselors” put their audience in the picture?



Kirk: “You’d make a splendid computer, Mr. Spock”

Spock: “That’s very kind of you, Captain.”



Keith is a CEO.


A former lawyer, he took an executive MBA and eventually became head of a technology firm.


As an MBA student, Keith was one of the smartest people in the room and sounded like it. In open discussion, if Keith answered a question, it sounded — literally — like he had mentally looked up the correct paragraph in a textbook and was reading verbatim from the page, without stutter, without err, and without umm.


Keith, to his classmates, was affectionately known as ‘speaks like books.’


By the time he became a CEO, Keith had expanded on this skill. Keith knew the problem with reading from a textbook is that you’re not reading Harry Potter. It’s a dry textbook, literate, but boring. Keith was factually correct in his delivery, but as the leader of an organization, he knew he had to add a level of rhetoric that made him engaging and appealing to his audience.


The goal — a compelling mix of “Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire” and Emmanual Kant “On Reason.”


Keith is the type of presenter we call a Counselor.

The “Counselor” is one of six types, along with Storyteller, Coach, Teacher, Inventor, and Producer.


Counselor’s use the sequence, Words, Structure, Pictures as the building blocks of their story. If you think that might be you, read on.



A Counselor is a logical and eloquent speaker who likes to talk about ideas.

If you're a Counselor, you deploy words accurately and easily to create persuasive presentations.


Counselors connect major themes and minor details — seamlessly.

Counselors use precise words and a crisp, coherent structure to deliver their argument. These words seamlessly connect major themes and minor details. When asked a question, Counselors give rational, well-thought-out responses. So much so that it can almost sound as if reading from a pre-planned script.

Counselors will tend to use slides that are text-heavy rather than visual.


In both the physical and virtual worlds, Counselors have many advantages. Their discipline and professional polish as presenters in a live room work well within the confines of a virtual setting. In addition, a Counselor's ability with words and structure makes any presentation clear and understandable. Logical and precise yet elegant words cut through the distractions of a remote presentation.


For an audience, this makes Counselors clear, clinical speakers who are easy to follow.




But, Counselors struggle to connect with their audiences.

Here's the problem:


Counselors can come across as being more technical than emotional; more dry than inspiring.


Lots of logic, but little passion.

The biggest challenge — Counselors become too clinical with their content and relentless logic. This is a failure to engage with the audience, who can't picture themselves in the message. So while the audience can see lots of logic, they feel little passion.


Remember, reason leads to judgment, but emotion leads to action. If you’re a Counselor, you must connect with your audience on an emotional level.




A professorial tone impedes people from relating to you on a human level.

As a Counselor, you don't naturally feed off your audience.


Metaphors magnetize audiences.

A Counselor’s verbal precision can dampen interaction. The audience struggles to connect. They’re listening to a set of instructions, or a textbook, not a story. For them, it's dry rather than fun. It's impersonal rather than engaging.


As a Counselor, you’re more engaged with the idea than the audience. Therefore, you seldom use personal stories or experiences but keep to the cool, clear facts. Unfortunately, this leaves the audience at an emotional distance, which is only amplified by the physical distance of a remote presentation.


Try using a metaphor to illustrate your point instead of the clinical, factual description, which you might prefer.




How Counselors can reduce the distance when presenting at a distance.

Audiences will happily join you in your story — if you reach out and invite them in.


Think about engagement — Tell repels. Ask invites.

Counselors can do this with a simple switch. Change the logical structure that underpins your presentation from a series of “tells” to a series of “asks.” Your presentation switches from “I will tell you three things” to “I will answer three questions.”


This automatically invites the audience in.


The trick is that the question or questions are shared questions. As a result, your audience has a vested interest in the answer. Even presented as a series of rhetorical questions, this switches your relationship with the content. Rather than a passive audience listening to a pitch, you now have an involved audience interested in a question.


Simple interaction tools such as polling will help, along with deliberately warming your delivery. Self-effacing stories and asides are a great way to create this warmth and can be planned. Slides can also be warmed up by simplifying wherever possible, adding rich visual elements, and using builds to create movement on-screen.


As a Counselor, let your passion shine through.







Gavin McMahon is a founder and Chief Learning and Product Officer for fassforward. He leads the design and product development of fassforward’s services. This crosses diverse topics, including leadership, culture, decision-making, information design, storytelling, and learning design.

Michael Flanagan is an Executive Advisor and Facilitator with fassforward. Michael has a deep Organization Effectiveness background. He facilitates both live and online learning experiences on a wide range of topics, including leadership development, presentation skills, critical thinking, and change management.