A great way to share your expertise is by public speaking. I pay particular attention to sessions delivered by people in the printing industry, as it’s a specialty of mine. When I attend such a talk, I imagine what other audience members think of the speaker and whether the session is soaring…or boring.
Let’s say you’re presenting to a local business group, like a Chamber of Commerce. Maybe you’re presenting to a customer group. Or perhaps you’ve hit the jackpot and are speaking to an audience of marketers and other print customers at a major conference. In recent years, I’ve seen more printers present at events hosted by groups like AMA and DMA. To them I say, BRAVO! But regardless of the group, the advice I’m about to give is solid.
As someone who’s done public speaking for nearly 20 years, I’ve made plenty of mistakes. I trust I’ve improved with time. Today I want to share 14 tips I’ve learned over time. They apply to anyone who’s giving a speech.
- Know your audience. This is #1, because if you don’t know who’s in your audience, you could be in serious trouble. Find out before you say “yes” in fact. Keep in touch with the event producers, as people register to hear you. Ask the host to describe the audience: who they are, what they know, their level of sophistication/experience, etc. Your presentation must be tailored to them.
- Respect your time-slot. Whether you have 30 minutes or 130, plan to use your time well. If you’re building in time for Q&A, leave room at the end of your presentation or allow “breathing room” during the presentation itself. Write for the amount of time you’re given – but be prepared in case you need to cut it short (you will rarely if ever be asked to go longer).
- Practice until you know it cold. Time yourself. (I love that you can do this in PowerPoint.) Not only will you know if you have enough or too much material for your allotted time, but you’ll also get more comfortable with your presentation and with speaking aloud. The last thing you want to do on stage is to read your presentation from the slides.
- Spend a lot of time writing a strong introduction. People remember how you begin your presentation, so devote a lot of time working on your introductory remarks. Using stories is a great idea. People are interested in stories. Spend more time on the intro than anything else you have to say. It sets the tone, and it should make people sit up and want to hear more. For me, it’s always the hardest part to write.
- Channel your inner actor. You have to be entertaining. This means moving around comfortably, not standing still behind a podium. Smile. Engage with your audience. Modulate your voice to prevent the snoozy monotone.
- Make your presentation focused. It needs an objective, which will guide everything you write and say. It needs a beginning, middle, and end. The content must flow in a natural order. Give your audience a sense of what they’ll be learning from you. This roadmap helps prepare them.
- Don’t clog your slides with content. Crowded slides are illegible and annoying. Cover more ground with what you say, not what’s on the screen. Use lots of visuals to help tell your story.
- If you don’t know PowerPoint well enough, hire a pro. It will make a huge difference. I have a go-to designer when I need help with layout, images or my template.
- Add a brand ID to each slide. This isn’t blatant selling; it’s smart. I’ve seen slides where no mention of the speaker’s company is visible. A tasteful logo and small URL work just fine.
- Add Twitter hashtags to your slides. Here are my two thoughts on this: 1) if you’re presenting at a trade event, the event has a hashtag (I hope), and it should appear on every speaker’s slide – small and tasteful will do; and 2) if you have your own Twitter account, add your hashtag as well. Don’t you want folks to find and follow you?
- Act like a Virgo and be super-organized. Be prepared for emergency situations. You’ll probably use your own laptop, but put your presentation on a thumb drive as well, and also send it to your host just in case. Pack extra batteries. I always bring my own remote slide advancer (with batteries), so I’m not tethered to my laptop when speaking. If you’re a Mac user as I am, be sure the event producer has the right cable for your laptop. I learned this too late – and my presentation started 20 minutes late as the technician scrounged around for the right cable.
- Leave a little something behind. Often, your host will require and/or provide handouts of your presentation. If not, offer to send audience members a PDF copy of your presentation. Have business cards with you and any other materials that might make you memorable.
- Get there early to set up and test your equipment. Make sure the audio works. Make sure the cables are there (not every host will have a cable for a Mac, see #11 above!). Mac users should also bring their own adapter for the projector, BTW.
- Concentrate on relaxing. Oxymoron-ish? Maybe so, but the best speakers seem totally comfortable. Their pace is good. They smile and react to questions easily. They exude confidence. They are masters at whatever they’re talking about. It may take time but it makes a difference to your audience.
So if you have an upcoming presentation and you’re not yet an accomplished public speaker, these 14 tips will help.
Giving a presentation may be the first and only time audience members hear about you and your company. You need to be prepared! Make it your goal to be excellent, entertaining, and memorable.
©2014 Margie Dana. All rights reserved.