A high-profile speaker walked off the stage mid-presentation at a recent product launch at the CES Technology expo in Las Vegas. It’s ironic that it was caused by the failure of the technologically humble auto-cue. But what can we do when this happens? And— make no mistake — it will.
They say speaking in public ranks alongside spiders and death as one of the things people fear most. I’m one of the few who happen to enjoy it — I quite like spiders too — but that doesn’t mean I don’t get nervous and it certainly doesn’t mean everything goes smoothly every time.
The opportunity to stand up and speak publicly always presents challenges. So what can we do to prepare for the unexpected; the auto-cue failing, the heckler at a public event or when you completely lose the thread of what you are saying?
Practise. This means actually doing it, not thinking about what you would do. Jonny Wilkinson doesn’t talk about what he’s going to do. He puts the ball down, steps back and kicks it, again and again and again.
Learn your opening few lines by heart. If you can walk onto the stage knowing word for word what you’re going to say in your first 30 seconds, you will get into your flow more quickly.
Look for things that might trip you up and address them. The auto-cue not working is an obvious one. So practise without it. When I did my IBM training they used to take the bulb out of the over-head projector (remember them?). It taught you to carry a spare bulb and also to practise without your visuals.
Prepare for questions and comments. In public events, hecklers, or questions from the floor are more likely than in an internal meeting. Decide how you are going to handle them.
Have a plan if you draw a blank. We’ve all had moments when our mind has gone totally blank and we can’t think what comes next. Almost always, it will come back to us. We just need to find a way back to safety. Here’s what I do:
Audiences like presenters to speak with passion. After all, if the presenter doesn’t care about their topic, why should we?
We all know this. Therefore we all also know that our audiences want us to present with passion to them.
But some of us find it hard to remember to inject passion into our presentations.
Instead, we often resort to last-minute, rushed prep; and then use wordy slides to act as speaker prompts. And, let’s face it, it’s virtually impossible to speak with passion to your audience if you have to read your slides. This approach just doesn’t work for the audience. Which means it doesn’t work well for you.
It’s understandable to take this approach once — after all, we all get crazy-busy sometimes. But when it becomes the norm, that’s when the problems start.
Here are two quick questions for you:
Presenters’ passion tends to come from one of three sources:
So, for the first, some people are just like that. They’re passionate about everything and it shows.
Others get their passion from their subject matter. For example, a technical specialist loves their topic and gets a real buzz when talking about it — and the audience is inspired by this.
The third type loves the impact their presentation will cause: what I call the “afters”: why people are better-off after hearing it. There are two main types of afters here: why your audience is better-off, and why you are better-off.
For example, my burning passion is to enable the people I speak to. That puts me in the third group. So, during my prep, I’ve worked out why they’ll be better-off after hearing me speak — for instance, they’ll have more clarity, time freed up, quicker buy-in. And I keep focusing on that during my presentation.
This makes it easy for me to speak with passion. You don’t have to be in group three but you do want to be in one of these groups. Because if you aren’t, there’s too little passion. And when that happens, nobody wins.
Before your next presentation, ask yourself: What’s the source for my passion? Will it come from what I am like, saying or causing?. And then, keep focusing on your answers throughout your prep, delivery and follow-up.
Andy Bounds is a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.
Everyone wants to be the stand out exhibition at an event. No matter how big or small your stand or budget, you need to make an impact.
But an impressive exhibition stand takes ambition, creativity and a solid understanding of how to show your business in a unique and relevant way. This last point is key and will, most likely, take up a considerable amount of your planning and design time.
If you have exhibited before, the first step is to objectively review your past performances at exhibitions. You can learn from your mistakes as well as those exhibits that ticked along but didn’t garner as much attention as you hoped. Carefully analyse your previous performance — what worked, what didn’t and what could be fine-tuned for re-use.
If you’ve never exhibited before, or even if you have, it’s essential you check out the competition within your sector. Focus on exhibitors that have won awards for their displays or those that are considered to be top of their game. Taking inspiration from previous exhibits that were particularly impressive is a great way forward.
Then take a look outside your industry to find fresh ideas. In addition, spend time on design websites to see what’s being shared and commended. Are there any elements that can inspire your exhibition?
Exhibition stands are evolving at an impressive rate. Just consider that integrating tablets into your presentation would have been unheard of three years ago — and flat screen displays five years before that.
Check out those websites that discuss advances in the event industry. Visiting a showroom is also an excellent way to discover what exhibition experts consider to be the future of event marketing. Looking into these advances could inspire some really creative ways to promote your business.
It’s actually quite easy to be the stand that everyone talks about if money isn’t an issue. But you want to see a return on your investment, which means carefully weighing up the benefits of taking your stand in a certain direction with the confidence that it will drive conversions.
The most straightforward way of gaining good leads from your stand is to make sure it is relevant to your business. All forms of promotion should be easily and recognisably associated with your business within five seconds of someone first seeing your stand. It should also feature eye-catching elements that are complementary to the brand message.
A bad example would be a bottled water company sporting a massive aquarium. The connection is there but it’s not immediately apparent what fish and drinking water have in common. A better example would be a travel company displaying a large aquarium to promote glamorous destinations, suggesting exotic adventures.
Once you’ve taken these steps, you should be in a strong position to create a great exhibition stand with the wow factor that everyone talks about.
Kelly Edwards is assistant ecommerce manager at Nimlok.
According to the latest research, 86% of business directors agree that exhibitions are the second most effective means of generating sales leads after a company’s own website.
This finding may surprise you when you consider the array of other alternative channels available to companies. So why are exhibitions still such a successful means of drumming up business?
One reason why every company, regardless of size, should get showy is due to the unique captured target audience you can gain from attending a show. At trade exhibitions you can be certain of reaching a large portion of your target audience.
Most people who make the effort to attend exhibitions up and down the country aren’t there to window shop. If they’re taking the time to visit a particular show then these are real potential customers with real money to spend. The fact that you can access a relevant, filtered audience is the key to trade exhibitions and is a great reason why businesses should exhibit.
Another big gain is brand affinity with your customers. In a world where everybody is connected by computers, brand differentiation often gets lost in translation.
By giving your target audience the chance to physically engage with your brand in an environment that is primarily in your control, you can gain a serious upper hand on your competitors. When done in the right way to suit your brand, this can be a great way to stay in people’s minds.
Even though it can seem an expensive option, in the long term an effective exhibition stand can be a much more economical investment than other ways of trying to reach your audience and it can deliver real results.
It’s definitely worth considering taking the time and effort to get yourself and your business in front of your target audience. Just make sure of a firm handshake at the end of it!
Rick Hewitt is marketing and graphics assistant at Envisage.
Exhibitions are a brilliant way of getting your brand under the nose of industry movers and shakers. But they can also be very expensive and hard work. Exhibiting at a trade fair can take a huge chunk out of your company’s marketing budget and it’s important to make sure the investment is well used.
For me, the stands that I am attracted to and that I remember after an event are those with a clear offer. It might be because they are clearly showing, through their banners or literature, that they deal in something that my company needs, either now or in the future.
But suppose you’re exhibiting at a trade fair where there are lots of companies who do exactly what you do. You have to compete with them for the attention of as many attendees as possible. There are several ways you can entice attendees to engage with your stand rather than that of a rival.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box — novelty sells! Fancy dress and themes can be great ideas. At one exhibition I attended, I came across a stand for a company that sold office cleaning products and services and the staff were dressed as fairies — even the men! It drew a lot of attention and they were busy all day long. This sort of thing may not be to everyone’s taste but if you can find an angle, it really can work for the right company.
Creating a buzz and atmosphere is a big draw too. Get some interactive games going, and have a leader board with prizes for the top scorers. There’s nothing like a bit of competition to pique the interest of company executives!
And what works for us? Comfy chairs. Exhibitions are tiring and attendees appreciate the rest while we’re bending their ears about our products. Not many stalls provide them for fear of slowing down attendee turnover, but the longer you can keep people on the stand, the more chance you have of making that sale.
Finally, don’t underestimate the draw of sweets and giveaways. All kinds of exhibition-savvy visitors will make a detour if they get word of a decent freebie!
Jo Morris is director at Rio Lounge, an exhibition furniture hire company.
In these times of web 2.0 and online social networking, it’s all too easy to forget the value of meeting face-to-face.
Trade shows, conferences and seminars are all great networking opportunities — they can help you raise your profile, meet new customers, connect with suppliers and more.
Networking events are sometimes viewed as a bit of a skive, but as anyone who attends them knows, they can be hard work — and, used well, this time out of the office can be invaluable to your business.
Online tools have made face-to-face networking less stressful and more time efficient, and a little online research can bypass that awkward first stage of a meeting.
This research can include checking the website to see who’s exhibiting and taking time to read any pre-event emails and literature to devise a plan of attack.
You may have the chance to catch up with existing suppliers or meet new ones. Contacting them to arrange a time to talk can help you get the most out of your visit — alternatively, arrange a post-event follow-up if you need more time.
Try to find out who else will be attending the event. Perhaps there’s a prospect you’ve been trying to contact or an ex-colleague you’d like to share industry info with.
Here are a few ways you can find this information.
Though there’s no longer a dedicated application for events, there are still ways to spot who might be attending. Check status updates to see if anyone has mentioned the event. Update your own status and invite your connections to respond.
Many large events now have a dedicated LinkedIn group, where you can find people who share your interest. Identify group members who are existing connections, read the latest posts, start a discussion about meeting up (don’t make it too much of a sales pitch) or send individual messages to people.
Many event organisers use Eventbrite (embedded in their own website) as a registration tool and to take payment. You can also use it to search for events in your industry or those happening locally.
Look for a list of those who have registered, search for them on LinkedIn and make contact before the event.
As well as following event organisers on Twitter who may be tweeting in the run up to an event, many events have a hashtag you can follow to find out what exhibitors are up to and who else is planning to visit.
Again, this gives you the opportunity to check out profiles and connect before the event. Use the event hashtag to tweet that you’ll be attending, and ask if anyone wants to meet up. It’s that easy!
Use tools such as Foursquare or Facebook to check in to the event, so exhibitors and other delegates can find you. Tweet to say you’ve just enjoyed a particular presentation, or that you‘re about to take a coffee break and you’re looking forward to chatting to other delegates.
So, you did your preparation, made some valuable contacts and had a great time — remember to carry on networking and follow up everyone you met, as well as those you may have missed. Explore the event hashtag stream and check out the LinkedIn group. A quick “great to meet you/see you again” or “sorry I missed you” note will keep the door open for future conversation.