One of my crew is giving a presentation to the sales team and as we we’re prepping I used a bunch of my go to tips. These may or may not be the best choice depending on the audience, venue, culture or objective. I encourage you to think about them before your next big event.
Pre-wire problem children
Ever presented an idea and had someone poke it full of wholes completely wrecking any chance you had of getting a decision? I have. Some people need to be briefed ahead of time and be given an opportunity to consider and shape the idea. It was so common at a former company of mine we had a name for it “pre-wiring.”
If someone is very analytical and needs time to consider something, get to them early. If you need their support, include them in your preparation. I wish it wasn’t this way and that we could just have meetings to decide, but I’ve been to very few places that work that way.
That usually works but if someone is diving too deep in the details or taking the conversation off track. Stop them politely by suggesting that you two follow up offline or that you will come back to that topic.
Practice key ideas
If I’m speaking at a conference, you’ll find me in a quiet corner talking to myself. If I’m presenting to a few clients, I’ll rehearse my big ideas in my head on the ride over. Unless you are a professional speaker you will never come off as too rehearsed.
Fix your posture
“Room presence” is an important skill or any leader or someone trying to get a decision made. The easiest way to increase your presence is to stand up by the monitor or by a whiteboard with a marker in your hand. You are directing attention to you and putting you in a place where you have a better vantage point. When I’m on a hangout or doing a WebEx I try to sit up straighter to mimic the feeling of being on stage.
Dress up a bit
My husband wears a t-shirt, jeans and Vans just about everyday but if he has a bigger meeting the collared shirt comes out. I may wear a nicer top, a jacket or shoes with a bit of a heel. It’s not for them, it’s for me to feel a bit more confident and polished. If i’m at home I’ll throw a nicer top over my t-shirt and yoga pants. (PS – Check to see what’s in the background of your video, someone mentioned my husband’s stout beer collection once so I moved it so it would stay out of frame)
Never skip the setup
I’m not known for my patience. I just want to get to talking about what ever it is that I wanted to talk about. My friend Cip taught me to always start by explaining what we were doing, why it mattered and where we were in the process. That context made it much easier for the audience to be able to make the decision or take the action I was asking for.
Watch your language
Use simple and commonly understood words. If you do need to use a technical term explain it using a metaphor or other device. The easier to understand you are the more likely you’ll get your message across. It helps to practice with someone who will tell you when you are being confusing or to have someone watch you speak and write down what technical terms you use.
I talk fast (blame my New York City roots). I was given the advice years ago that I should feel painfully slow when talking to an audience because that is a more comfortable speed for them. I give the same advice to my team. I’m at my worst when everyone is remote. I talk way too fast and struggle to connect. It’s great if you can have folks turn on video so you can talk to them or have at least one person in the room with you.
Ask for question and count to three
A teacher taught me to count “one, one thousand; two, one thousand; three, one thousand” after every question I asked to a class. It feels very long and uncomfortable but it creates a silence that people will fill with questions they may not want to ask. Be strong in the silence and give them time to open up.
Don’t rush into an answer
Take a moment and formulate your answer. Better to appear thoughtful and be thoughtful rather than stumbling into your ideas.
Be prepared for questions
I’m a fan of a short presentation with a hefty appendix. You are prepared to answer questions that come up but your story is not weighed down with a bunch of material that only is relevant to one or two people.