An effective way to share your expertise is by public speaking. I pay particular attention to sessions delivered by people in commercial printing, as it’s a specialty of mine. I try to 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. And just maybe you’re presenting 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 my share of mistakes. I trust I’ve improved with time. Today I want to share some important tips I’ve learned through the years. They apply to everyone in every field.
- Know your audience. This is #1, because if you don’t really know who’s in your audience, you could be in serious trouble. Ask whoever’s in charge 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 120, plan to use your time well. If you’re building in Q&A time, so be it. 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 increasingly 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.
- Have a strong introduction. People remember how you begin your presentation. Are you funny? Do you have a compelling story that relates to your session? 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.
- 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 small 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, 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 tiny 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.
- Act like a Virgo and be super-organized. Be prepared for emergency situations. You’ll probably use your own laptop, but put your presentation file 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.
- Leave 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.
- 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, so if you use one, double check with the host pre-event). Mac users should also bring their own adapter for the projector, BTW.
- Concentrate on relaxing. Oxymoron-ish? Maybe so, but the best speakers are comfortable. Their pace is good. They smile and react to questions easily. They exude confidence. They are masters at whatever they’re talking about.
I wish I could say I always knew and practiced these guidelines, but I learned some the hard way. If you’ve an upcoming presentation and you’re not yet a comfortable public speaker, these 13 tips will help prepare you.
Giving a presentation may be the first and only time audience members hear about you and your firm. You must be prepared to be excellent, entertaining, and memorable.
©2014 Margie Dana. All rights reserved.