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Why you should expect the unexpected when you are speaking in public

March 10, 2014 by Andy Coughlin

Why you should expect the unexpected when you are speaking in public/Businessman pointing whiteboard at conference{{}}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:

  • Don’t worry about taking a few seconds to gather your thoughts, they won’t notice. A smile, and a sip of water will buy you some more time.
  • Stay calm and picture where you are in the presentation. This will usually prompt you back to what you should be saying — the few notes I use usually have little images on them to remind me of the journey through what I’m going to say.
  • Take the chance to summarise. People don’t mind being reminded of what you’ve told them and a recap buys you more time and will usually trigger what comes next.
  • Go back to your notes. I don’t use notes on stage (unless I’m running through some detailed information), but I always have a set to hand. Nobody is going to mind, if you say ‘excuse me’ and go over to your notes, or take a moment to look down at them. Especially if you do it with a smile on your face.

Andy Coughlin is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and chief executive of Andy Coughlin Consulting.

How to put the passion into your presentations

February 27, 2014 by Andy Bounds

How to put the passion into your presentations/Five business people smiling in presentation{{}}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.

How passionate are you?

Here are two quick questions for you:

  • On a scale of 1 (bad) to 10 (brilliant), how would you grade your ability to always present with passion?
  • What grade would your audiences give you?

Presenters’ passion tends to come from one of three sources:

  • What you’re like
  • What you’re saying
  • What you’re causing

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.

My burning passion

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.

How to deal with difficult questions from the floor

May 22, 2013 by Anthony Garvey

How to deal with difficult questions from the floor/chalk drawing{{}}You’ve given your presentation or made a speech. It has gone brilliantly — although you say it yourself. You ask if there are any questions … and over the next few minutes your smile begins to fade as you are caught off guard by a series of tricky and complicated questions from the audience.

Your failure to answer them convincingly undoes much of the good work you had put in during your speech. So how did it all go so wrong?

Here are eight tips to help you prepare:

  1. When you’ve finished preparing your presentation, sit with a blank sheet of paper and write down and answer some easy questions you think you may be asked. Then tackle some of the more awkward questions you can think of. Ask a trusted friend to listen to your speech and get them to ask you some questions too. Importantly you should also ask them to give you feedback on your answers to their questions.
  2. It’s important to anticipate the mood of the audience in advance. If you expect the atmosphere to be tense or confrontational, then give yourself more time to prepare for the Q&A session. 
  3. It’s a good idea to start off a Q&A session getting the person who introduced you to ask the first question, a pre-agreed question for which you are fully prepared. Another tip is to ask and answer the first question yourself. This allows you to set the agenda.
  4. Watch out for any hidden agenda questions. Don’t dismiss or brush off these questions. Listen carefully and you will be able to answer both their initial query and address the underlying problem.
  5. From time to time we are all asked questions we don’t know the answer to or even worse, are asked questions we feel we ought to know the answer to, but don’t. It is best in these circumstances to be honest and open, rather than bluff or waffle. A suitable response might be: “I don’t have that information to hand right now, but if you leave your contact details with me, I will send it through to you later today.”
  6. Pause. Pausing for a few seconds to consider your reply before leaping straight into an answer may feel unnatural at first, but with practice it can give you the extra seconds you need to formulate a coherent reply.
  7. When the Q&A session has finished ideally you should be the last person to leave the room, giving you time to address any final concerns people may have on a one-to-one basis.
  8. Finally, joining a public speaking club such as Toastmasters can be a great way to practice presentation skills in a safe and encouraging environment. In particular, taking part in impromptu speaking session (often known as table topics) where a member is asked to speak for up to two minutes on a subject they have not previously seen is great preparation for answering difficult questions. Taking part in these activities allows speakers to develop their ability to organise their thoughts quickly, an essential weapon in a speaker’s armoury when mastering the Q&A session.

Anthony Garvey is founder of Quinn Garvey PR and a member of Toastmasters International.

Posted in Sales | Tagged presentations | 0 comments

Perhaps it's time to pimp your PowerPoint?

November 06, 2009 by Mark Sinclair

If you make presentations frequently, or are likely to need to, take a few moments to hear some very useful advice from some world class experts who know how to make PowerPoints really work.

What do you think?  Could some of these techniques help you add life your PowerPoint game?

Nine sales and customer care facts

April 24, 2009 by Robert Craven

 If your customers are not listening it is not their fault! It is your fault… you are not communicating in a way that they can hear your message.
Your sales presentations/offers and so forth are probably all wrong. Read on...
People have problems/hurts/needs that they want sorted out. You need to know what they are. Ask questions, shut up and listen to the answers.
Customers are only interested in how you can help them relieve the pain or get more pleasure.
People will buy from you if you are able to cut to the chase. Tell them what they will get… Don’t bore them. Be precise.
People don’t buy from you for what you do but for what your product or service will do for them (probably after you are gone). How will they be better off after you have gone?
Customers want you to make it absolutely clear what they will get by buying from you. Tell them how you will make things better for them.
Customers love it when you make it clear that you can deliver. So tell them: “We can do that” and give them some brief proofs or examples.
Customers love it when you shut up.

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