You've heard it before: before you present, learn as much about the audience as you can. Gaining information about your listeners positions you to know what to say and that which you need to delete from your script. If you proceed with making a presentation without knowing exactly who is in front of you, then it can be like blindly poking and jabbing with your threaded needle in search of the right opening to affix a button. With this presentation preparation, you will know which points you should strongly emphasize, and you will know what might be hot topics that should be avoided. (Of course, politics, religion, and money are always off the table ... unless, of course you are giving something like a financial planning workshop, but I digress. Besides, you know what I mean!) When you learn as much as you can about the audience beforehand, you have a good idea of how much foundational information to provide and how deep of a dive in which you need to go to establish definitions and a framework so everyone is on the same page. Okay. Sounds good, right? But how exactly is that done? There are three stages involved with finding out who will be in your audience and how to work toward tailoring a message that will sew seeds of good ideas and resonate with your participants.
In Fall 2018, one of my first-year college roommates (and for those of you who know me well, no, I'm not talking about my sister-in-law ... for those of you who haven't heard this story, the roommate I had during my second, third, and fourth years of college also became my sister-in-law!), celebrated the release of her first book that is a memoir as well as a tribute to the history of modern soul food.
In it, she includes stories about being in the kitchen with her grandmother, having a high school crush, and growing up in Texas with her two sisters plus over 50 recipes sure to speak to the heart and sufficiently fill the belly. In the fall of 2018, she was invited to an expo to read excerpts from her book and ended up bawling before her audience. BAWLING!
She quickly wrote me, asking if it was normal to feel overwhelmed and to full-on cry during a speaking engagement. I told her ...
Did you miss the first 5 things? Check them out HERE! And numbers 6 through 10 are HERE!
11. Never apologize for interrupting/stopping conversations. You have heard a presenter say it; he/she will ask the audience to engage in a conversation about X, Y, or Z, then after a certain amount of time, the presenter will say something along the lines of "I'm so sorry to stop your conversations." This statement is pointless considering these are conversations that must come to an end in order for you to continue with your presentation.
Instead, thank the audience for the robust discussions, then move on with your presentation. Consider saying "Wow! What great conversations! Thank you for engaging. Now to the next point." (Bear in mind you can always evaluate if what you have to say next is as impactful as the conversations. If what the audience is discussing brings more value than the content you had prepared, then consider letting the conversations continue for a few more minutes before continuing with your presentation.)
12. Never diminish your power. For instance, avoid ...
a. saying it's your first time doing anything, e.g., making the presentation, designing a presentation, traveling out of the country, et cetera.
b. saying "I don't know." (Want to know what to say instead? Read this.)
c. folding your arms; remain open and warm. (Check out this post to find out what to do with your arms and hands.)
13. Never position the audience to engage in too much multitasking.
Here's a true story ...
There are those times when you are scheduled to make a presentation, but you simply do not feel up to it. Not at all. Not for a minute. So what do you do? Do you phone it in? Cancel and reschedule? See if you can get a replacement?
Here are real scenarios, most of which I have personally experienced, plus what the best presenters do even in the worst of times. It's tough, but this is the mindset to have when the absolute last thing in the world you want to do is make a presentation!
Even in today's digital society where so much networking takes place online, there are those instances when you have to physically attend networking events. And when you attend networking events, sometimes interacting with others can make you feel like anything but a boss. Some of the challenges you face include but are not limited to trying to find something interesting to say, looking for genuine ways to make newcomers feel welcomed, and finding somewhere to sit down because your feet are killing you! Just kidding ...
When you are networking, you are making a presentation. And no matter your industry or your position, you are an ambassador for your company and, most importantly, for yourself. In this post, you will know how to effortlessly engage with others at networking events with utmost confidence even if you absolutely DREAD small-talk or even if you love small-talk and want some new tactics for making your conversations even more interesting. You will know how to look and sound like an amBOSSador.
Did you miss the first 5 things? Check them out here!
Do you want to see numbers 11 through 15! They're here!
6. Never, after you greet the audience and receive a less than enthusiastic greeting in return, insist on the audience doing a better job of returning your greeting by saying something to the effect of "Come on! You can do better than that!"
a. You have not done anything to get people hyped ... unless you have rock star status. And you immediately make the audience feel inadequate or like it has to do something it really does not want to do.
b. Do not rely on the audience to get you excited. Never make the audience responsible for making you feel welcome and wanted. Get yourself pumped by thinking of the value you're about to bring that's going to rock the house! Think to yourself "Okay. You aren't excited now, but wait until you get a load of this presentation!"
c. Greet everyone, accept the greeting you get in response, then set out to totally wow the crowd. THEN you will see audience excitement go through the roof!
7. Never pose your first question to the audience, then ...
Think back to the last time you had a really good conversation. What did the other person do that made the engagement such a good experience? Did he have good (or even juicy!) information? Did she answer a big question you had? Did it feel like your listener enjoyed being there and was both physically and mentally present in the moment?
You grab and maintain audience attention - in-person and online - by immediately solving a mystery and giving the audience what it needs, by providing the audience something useful. The truth is you want to be able to hear a pin drop. Because you’ve researched and you know what the audience wants, you have people listening closely and ready to chime in as opposed to bored and waiting for the session to end. And it all starts with a shift in attitude.
There is so much you want to cover and only so much time to do it. Subconsciously, you want your audience to fall as deeply in love with your topic as you are already in love with it. This tends to cause a problem.
But just a second … this is not to suggest there is something wrong with wanting your audience to find the same value in your content as you find in it. The challenge lies in this desire propelling you to share and share and share to the point you end up rambling, rambling, and rambling. By going off on tangents or losing your train of thought, you also lose your effectiveness and diminish your power with all of the spins and twirls and ups and downs and twists and turns you put in your message.
It's the line you dread hearing ... especially if you are just starting out in your industry or if you are new to entrepreneurship ...
"So ... tell me what it is you do!"
It's not that you do not love what you do or that you do not want to share your professional passion. The challenge is you have not narrowed down exactly how to make this critical 30-second presentation in a succinct fashion so it doesn't put your listener to sleep or doesn't have you rambling.
You must clarify what you do that helps your listener be better at what he/she does. Use this 4-part approach every time you pitch yourself or your business, and you make it very clear to your listener what you do, the results you bring your clients, how you're different from your competitors, and how you're on your way (or already there!) to the top floor!
You have prepared for what you believe is a killer presentation. You have your technology ready. You have picked the perfect setting. You are ready to make this live remote presentation one for the history books.
Okay. Perhaps that's a bit melodramatic; however, you get my point. You have invested time, energy, and research in designing a meaningful session to deliver to an audience of listeners who are located all over the country -- possibly around the globe. However, full calendars and busy lives can preclude your target audience from attending the session live, and you have more who opt to catch the recording at a later date that's more convenient for them.
While you can understand and respect those realities, it does nothing to make you feel better about preparing to present a live web-based presentation or a synchronous class session, right?
A friend and colleague once shared with me people make time for what's important to them. End of story. So with that, let's identify three ways you can make your session important to your prospective audience, so everyone's not putting it off until a later date but is showing up live and ready.