This summer, I have had some remarkably poor experiences when it comes to experts presenting at public forums. It’s not that they don’t know what they are talking about. The problem is that they fail to connect with the audience. Here are 3 tips when invited to showcase your expertise.
Understand where you are speaking and how many people are going to be attending. A presentation for 10 people in a conference room offers greater intimacy than 30 – 100 people at a lunch. If you are going to be showing videos, make sure that the room has a capability to reproduce the audio. I sat in on a presentation where a video was shown. No audio, but the presenter showed the video anyhow. As it played she proceeded to break out into laughter explaining to us that if we could hear this, it would really be funny and instructive. During the video, we mostly sat there and looked at our smartphones.
If you are showing slides, understand what kind of support you have. Make sure the venue has a projector and screen. Bring your own laptop as a backup and purchase a slide changer remote. If video is critical, consider even bringing your own speakers. If you are offered a microphone use it. The owners of the venue know something about how the room performs.
Understand when your presentation is expected to start and end. Many presenters would approach an invitation to speak from 10:15 to 11:00 as a requested 45 minute presentation. If the presentation starts late, then they still have 45 minutes. Not realistic. Understand that if you are expected to end at 11:00, no matter when you start, you are still expected to end at 11:00. This is especially critical if you have an evening presentation or the last presentation before lunch or the end of the day. Nothing kills the last 10 minutes of a presentation worse than lots of people walking out when you are making your final conclusions.
Entertain, Socialize, Network & Educate
For many of us who grew up in corporate environments, your presentation skills were fine tuned around disseminating information. What you said, took high priority over how you said it. No one showed up in the main conference room to socialize or network. But, when you are invited to keynote or present, entertainment, networking and socializing is as important as what you say.
Arrive early to the presentation. In addition to making sure that things work (see take control), spend some time getting to know some of the people who are attending. Understand: what are their expectations of the presentation. Get some personal information and possibly anecdotes that you can use to draw them into the presentation. Establish a personal relationship with the host. The host can help you bridge a connection with the audience.
Encourage questions and participation. Announcing to attendees to hold questions until the end is a sure way to have people tune out. Most people don’t wait, they just don’t ask. As you present, interact with the folks you have connected with before the presentation. Think about how powerful it is for you to say “I was talking to Bob before we started. Here is a tip that could really help him grow his business”. If someone asks a questions or participates, have them stand up. Also, in a bigger room, repeat the question. Nothing can kill a presentation faster, when you carry on a conversation with one person that no one else can see or hear.
Have a few dramatic statements that challenge your attendees personally. Doing a presentation to entrepreneurs, a statement like “no one will give you money if you are not willing to put in your own money”. When I do social media presentations, I will suggest “determine what kind of content you like, your customers and prospects like what you like”.
If the presentation is on the smaller size, give people the opportunity to get up and say who they are and what they do. This helps with networking afterwards. Additionally, as attendees talk about themselves, it give you an opening to better relate to them either during the introduction (where you might explain how what you are presenting may individually help them) or during the presentation (you can relate your content to their situation). By relating individually to one person, you actually relate to all. It sends a message, this presenter is really thinking about me.
It’s about you, not your slides
The attendees are there to listen (be entertained) not read your slides. Think about pictures or concepts that complement what you are saying. Don’t stand there facing the screen and read the slides. First, it’s harder to hear you. Also, you lose the eyes of your audience.
If you have to modify the length of your presentation it is easier to do it with pictures as opposed to word slides. Ever sit through a presentation, where each point is a word slide? As the presenter runs out of time, they spend the last few minutes rapidly going through slides. Put your heavy content up front. I have done presentations where the first half of the program was so engaging, we never got to the last part, but no one really knew it.
Spend just enough time giving your background to connect. You don’t have to prove that you have knowledge. If you are there, your audience assumes that you are credible.
If you are showing videos, let them play. Nothing confuses an audience more than having a presenter compete with video. Set up the video, let it play, then ask “what do you think” Have a personal story to tell? They can really engage the audience, but they need a context before you start with the example. I was in a presentation, where the expert told a rather complex story about himself and his teenage daughter. At the end of the story, which took about 5 minutes, he said, “now you see what this means”. I really didn’t, but certainly did not want to ask.
Workshops, keynotes and public speaking can offer you a great opportunity to showcase your expertise. But the how is as important as the what.
What do you like in a presenter? How can your observations make you a better presenter?