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.
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:
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?
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.