Yesterday I had to do a presentation in front of a fairly large group of people, about 20. I didn’t know most of them and haven’t met most of them before. I knew a little bit about what they do and knew the nature of the meeting that I was about to be a part of, but that’s all. I needed to talk about my business and explain to my audience what I do in a simple and relatable way, I also needed to draw some parallels for them on how what I’m talking about pertains to their different industries and businesses.
The presentation was very well received. The audience complimented me on my message, presentation style and relevance of the information. They were genuinely interested and asked great questions. Any time I do a presentation or a speaking engagement, I reflect on things I did well and things I could improve upon for the future. So what made the presentation so successful yesterday?
- No PowerPoint. I don’t prepare slide presentations. I talk to my audience and don’t read off the slides or other materials. If I have to read it, why have a meeting? Send the slides by email and be done with it. If I’m going to take up people’s time, I might as well add value to their day, not read off the slides.
- Talking to my audience. I spoke to them all the time. I was fortunate to do the presentation at the end of the meeting, so I learned more about my audience, what they do, what’s important to them. That’s not always the case for every presentation, but in this case it really helped me reference things they were talking about during the meeting when I was delivering my message.
- Give examples. I was talking about new technologies. And no one in the room has used those before or was familiar with them. So I used actual examples of my prior work to show the audience how those technology tools apply to their businesses and industries, and how they can be used to add value to their businesses. People can relate to things familiar to them or useful to them, it’s very important to make a presentation focused on things important to the audience.
- Demonstrate value. I have already said this a couple of times in this post. Showing the audience that I’m not wasting their time by just talking, but how what I am offering them adds value to their business and their cause. Making the information relevant to them is key. Most business owners want to know how something either increases their revenues or cuts their costs.
- Be personable. I get it, public speaking is nerve wrecking in general, but it is important to just be yourself when you talk to the audience. There are many techniques out there to help conquer the fear of public speaking. I happen to enjoy public speaking (please don’t hate me for that! haha), but I grew into that mindset. What helps me conquer any nervousness is interacting with the audience before I have to present if I have a chance to do that. Or at the very least I remind myself that no matter who is in the audience, they are people too and they put their pants on one leg at a time every morning just like I do. This mindset always helps me stay grounded even if I deliver a presentation to a room full of high-ranking CEOs. Being personable doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. Bloopers happen nearly every time I present, the key is not to get hung up on the bloopers, but to focus on the message and value you bring to the table.
- Relax and breathe. Sounds easy, right? But it is critical to remember to have the game face on, and literally hold your head up high, pull your shoulders back, and keep your breathing on track. It is amazing how good and relaxed posture as well as calm deep breathing help in calming the nerves and projecting confidence and knowledge to the audience.
- Don’t brag. Bragging turns people off. If you try to hard to sell something, people do wonder why you’re trying so hard and start questioning your credibility. I always think of the mother nature in this case: a lion doesn’t have to announce it’s a lion, every creature in the jungle knows that. An elephant doesn’t have to oversell it’s an elephant. You get what I’m saying? When you offer true value and good information, that sells itself. You don’t have to be overly pushy with it. And if there are still nay-sayers in the audience, do you really want them as your customers anyway? What for? To question your every second of the project and penny pinch you? No, thank you. Work with people that get behind your product or service and advocate for it, there are plenty of those people out there.
- Stay positive. No matter what happens during the presentation, maintain positive attitude and composure. For example, yesterday I had network issues, so I couldn’t stream the feed from one of my devices like I wanted to… I didn’t focus on that, I kept talking about the important part of the presentation which was the value and the usefulness to my audience. I also happened to knock myself in the head while talking with one of the devices I was demonstrating to the audience…. Yep, how embarrassing, but I didn’t even bat an eye and kept going. The moral of the story is, at the end of my presentation, no one remembered that I knocked myself in the head or that there were network issues, they just remembered how awesome the technology was and how they can implement it in their businesses going forward. Needless to say, I already have a couple of follow up meetings on my calendar as a result.
A great presentation, doesn’t mean perfect presentation. A great presentation means it is memorable, it adds valuable and practical take-aways to the audience, and it doesn’t give the presenter a stroke from nerves in the process. So remember that next time you sweat public speaking.