Interview with Tony Jeary

By Brad Dupray

“Mr. Presentation” Tony Jeary has spent 25 years perfecting the art of the presentation. He has coached CEOs in a variety of industries, including leaders of Wal-Mart, Qualcomm, Samsung, and New York Life, to name a few. Having coached people the world around to develop their presentation effectiveness, Tony takes a strategic approach that works not only for “captains of industry,” but also for average Christians who want to communicate their message to a small group or one-on-one. Standard Publishing has published Tony’s 38th book, Purpose-Filled Presentations, designed to help any Christian communicate more effectively in and around the local church.

Who is the audience for Purpose-Filled Presentations?

The book is really written for any Christian. We’ve written the book as a reference, so rather than a complete read-through, it’s written so that any Christian would want to have this on his shelf. Whether you’re 15 or 50, the book is designed to help you communicate better for Christ. We truly want to help Christians present more effectively—that includes avoiding boredom, being more inspiring and engaging, and confidently delivering messages that plant seeds and impact people for the kingdom.

Once it’s “on your shelf,” how can it be practically used?

The second part of the book is nine scenarios—the most common scenarios in and around a church. It includes simple things, such as greeting and holding a Sunday school class—divided into three or four different levels, based upon age. It includes how to hold a small group and how to share your testimony.

So it really is geared to anybody.

This book is written specifically for any Christian who wants to really understand communication, and how they present is a big part of that. My daughter just got back from a mission trip and I gave books to every person in her entire high school so they all could be more confident in communicating for school. The book is really for any age.

How do you define a presentation?

I believe a presentation can be when you’re presenting on the phone, when you’re sending an e-mail, when you’re talking to your kids, when you’re holding a meeting, when you’re meeting someone or greeting them for the first time, when you’re training, when you’re mentoring—and the list goes on. Truly, life is a series of presentations.

Is there a difference between communication and presentations?

Communication is the bigger umbrella. Sometimes we’re communicating through a billboard, sometimes we’re communicating with our facial expressions, sometimes we’re communicating by not showing up. And perhaps those would not be presentations, but certainly they would be communication. Most of communication is a presentation, but not all.

Is the ability to present caught or taught?

Certainly the Holy Spirit can help anybody communicate. I also believe there are skills that can be learned and processes that can support those skills—not only to have someone present better, but also to save time. So many people today don’t prepare well because they’re time-starved. In the book I’ve included time-saving processes that I’ve tested and proved in the last 20 years.

How does a person overcome a fear of making presentations?

I’ve shared in the book specifically how to be more confident which, in a bottom-line sense, is how to “take the unknowns to the known.”

Meaning?

Anything you don’t know, you find out about it. You find out about the audience. You find out about what they know, what they care about, and what the room’s going to be like; the list just keeps going.

The basis of every bit of nervousness comes down to the fear of the unknown. How are people going to respond? Am I going to forget? How do things work here? So by “taking the unknowns to the known,” every person’s anxiety level goes down and his or her confidence level goes up. We explain that very simply in the first part of the book.

How does a person’s attitude affect his ability to make a good presentation?

The desire to be perfect is a flaw in people’s thinking. One of the strategies I point out in the book is to go for excellence, not for perfection. Being able to appreciate excellence, and recognizing that perfection is not required, is liberating and helps reduce people’s anxiety.

In referring to the book you sometimes say “we.” Was it a team effort?

I have a team of people who do research and write with me, help me shape my words, and help me communicate so that the end product is the best.

So you believe team presenting can actually be a more effective approach.

There are a lot of advantages to a team approach of presentation delivery because oftentimes it gives you “breathing spaces” when another person is talking. We share this concept heavily in the book.

Describe a team approach to a small group Bible study.

If a husband and wife were going to lead the small group, the husband might kick off the meeting and then turn to his wife. She may share a few things for a few minutes and then go back to the husband. By going back and forth both people get “breathing spaces” to collect their thoughts as they continue guiding and engaging their audience.

How can the presenter match the intended message with the hearer’s perceptions?

It’s very important to think through how your audience is going to receive your message, and to present your message in a way that they want to receive it. We call this the “Platinum Rule,” which is to present to people the way they want to receive it—which isn’t necessarily the way you would want to receive it. For me, I like to receive things quickly. But not everybody does. What’s important is the way the audience wants to hear it.

What kind of things does the presenter need to know about his or her audience to make that match?

Their age. Their backgrounds. Their biases. What do they care about? What are their expectations?

How does the presenter learn those audience traits?

We teach a concept called “verbal surveying,” where you simply ask the audience how they want to receive the message. You ask the audience if they want more detail. You ask the audience if they want examples. And you keep asking and adjusting so that you’re really delivering for them, instead of guessing that you are giving them what they need.

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