To be honest, there are times when I'm scared. Not the 'horror movie, the zombie is coming after me scared' — more like the 'I've been pushed WAY out of my comfort zone' scared. A few weeks ago, I was asked by a Fortune 50 organization to speak to a group of their employees — a small group, say 50-100 people. No problem — I've done it before. As the date moved ever closer, the attendance figures rose to 200, 300 until I walked into the building and found out we were looking at 750-800 attendees (for the auditorium and streamed via webinar). Oh my.
The main reason why there was a dramatic attendance jump was directly attributable to the title and topic of my talk: "Bulletproof Your Career". To say the least, I had to pull every bit of speaker experience out of my being and ensure my time on stage wow'ed the audience. During this entire process, I used three 'secrets' to allow me to knock it out of the park (afterward, I was told my evaluation score was 98% — one of the best they've ever seen).
So here they are:
1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
I couldn't have walked on stage in front of all those people without being 100% sure of my presentation and the logistics behind the presentation. First off, I spend a lot of time constructing the presentation. I have a rare form of presentation ADD, so when I build every slide deck, I tend to instantly edit, modify, and move things around because I get bored easily. I then run through the slides standing up, looking at my screen with my remote — to see how each slide runs into the next and I instantly feel the flow. Honestly, I do it a number of times until I get it right.
I also show up to the venue at least two hours ahead of time. I ensure I'm at the location (so I'm not late), I meet with the AV crew and connect my presentation to their machinery and I get a feel for the stage — I walk around, test the mic, see if there are any obstacles that might trip me up. Everything has to be PERFECT — and we have more than enough time to make it all happen. These little things all build my confidence and banish all the worries we all have prior to a presentation.
I also ask many questions prior to the event to get a better feel for my audience. Who will be there? What information do they need? Where are their heads at right now? All of these activities ensure I will deliver my best for all of my clients.
2. Simple, Clear, Concise
This is the hardest secret for presenters to stick to — keeping their message simple, clear and concise. They tend to over-complexify their presentation with a million slides, too much info on each slide, too many bullets (I hate bullets), etc. It almost becomes a treasure hunt for the audience where the presenter has buried the treasure and the audience has to find (decipher) it.
My slides always have one of two things: an image which dominates the slide or words which make up a simple phrase. That's it. Too many times, I see presenters go WAY overboard by adding too much information to the slide. They're not only hurting themselves (the audience checks out at a certain point) but their are obfuscating their message.
LESS IS MORE. Use your slides as illustrations to your verbal speaking points. You want your audience to spend the majority of their time looking at you, glancing at the slide, and then back to you. You don't want them READING each point — then they don't need you AND you lose the power and presence of a presenter instantly.
3. Pick It Up, Power It Down
Modulate your presentation — most speakers don't do this — they stay at the same volume, the same tonality, and the same rhythm during the entire presentation.
Mix it up! Jump on stage and greet your audience — unless you're a star and your reputation precedes you, every speaker needs to transfer their excitement and energy to the audience. The easiest way to do that is to greet everyone with a huge "Good Morning". First impressions impact your entire presentation.
Start out strong and let them know what they're in for — give them a brief overview of what your're going to cover. Tell them a story — get them excited about true instances which bring your points to life.
Power it down to make a point — get them to focus — but then bring it back up by asking a question or make a self-depreciating comment to make them laugh. Whatever you choose, keep the rhythm moving, unexpected, go up and down in tonality. This is not a world affairs forum and you are not expounding on the economics of third-world countries — you are informing, entertaining and engaging your audience. Make it a celebration!
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