I spent the morning at a “speaker’s showcase” watching them wither. There were some great moments when a speaker involved the group, used humor or said something that actually was important to the meeting professionals in attendance. (Read more to learn more about the one speaker who used a wonderful closing technique) The majority of the time, however, was filled with each speaker’s best stories, most of which had little or nothing to do with their topics – though they were going to use them no matter what – and lots of trying too hard.
Here are my notes:
1. Make the introduction real. And short. These speakers had only 15 minutes to speak and some of their introductions went on for 4 minutes. Oh, and don’t promise the moon and the sun and the stars in the introduction. Unless you’re heavenly, that type of build up inevitably leads to disappointment. Save the video introduction for when you’ve accomplished something worthy of a video. Underpromise and overdeliver and start with the intro!
2. Create a compelling opening. Use humor only if you’re funny. And practiced.
3. Stop when your time is up. It’s just plain rude to keep going and destroy the flow of an agenda. Practice so you know how long your presentation will take, place a watch next to you, a person in the front to give you the cut sign, or ask the entire group to stand when your time is up. Do something but don’t keep going, particularly without the group’s permission, just because you think your stuff is good. Give people the chance to say to you afterwards, Oh I wish you could have talked longer.
4. Update your photo. The speakers’ photos were shown on the screen for a few seconds as the speaker mounted the stage. The years have not been kind to some. Your prom picture really needs to go.
5. Don’t do a sound test while you’re climbing to the podium. Get there early enough to not have to start with these compelling words, Can you hear me? Is this on? Is this okay?
6. Just tell your story. Jay Leno, years ago, said it best: “Delaware Senator Joe Biden just announced he will officially announce that he’s running for president on Wednesday. Why do politicians always announce that they’re going to announce? Why don’t they just announce? Just announce! Don’t announce I’m gonna announce.” Is there really a need to drum roll comments with a pronouncement like I’m now going to tell you a story that shows how this works...? Just tell it.
7. Connect your story to your point. Even the best story won’t work or be remembered if it’s told just because it’s a good story.
8. Be yourself. Copying another speaker’s style doesn’t work. Trust yourself to be yourself. Bring your strengths to the platform. In that way, you’ll at least start off with people respecting you.
And the gem: One speaker used a circular close, and she did in perfectly. A circular close brings back the key points, using the same words used previously in the presentation, in a different way. The shorter the presentation, the more powerful this technique is. Even if the presentation has been disorganized, this bit of logic and organization helps listeners remember your points. This speaker brought back her main points in the most natural way. Early in her 15 minute presentation, she told a story about Wayne Newton’s song (stay with me!) Danke Schoen to anchor a key point. Her last words to the group? Not thank you, but Danke Schoen! Brilliant! Brought back the entire story and her key message without her having to repeat it.
Want more tips? How to Say It To Sell It is chock full of presentation skill ideas and other communication tips including how to write a great email and handle a difficult conversation.