As far back as I can remember, I heard that speaking to a group was the most common fear of adults. Later, as a student of The Dale Carnegie School, I witnessed this phenomenon, over and over, as student after student was asked to present to the class. Regardless of the subject matter and their level of familiarity or interest in it, the nervousness amongst these students remained, while the few confident presenters continued to set higher and higher standards.
Of course, from Day 1, the instructor provided the litany of reasons for why people are so intimidated by speaking in this format and what they can do to alleviate those anxieties and present in a confident, engaging way. Both mechanisms have served me to this day and should be inherent in the preparation for any important speaking engagement.
First and foremost, you must know the subject matter you’re going to cover and the answers to any questions you might encounter -cold! Second, don’t take your expertise for granted. Even the most knowledgeable and polished presenters, lose their train of thought and get flustered from time to time. So, in the immortal words of a nameless elderly musician, or the violinist Jascha Heifetz or maybe even the pianist Artur Rubinstein, who when asked “How do you get to Carnegie Hall” simply responded by saying “Practice, practice, practice!” Third, write it out if there’s a teleprompter or podium, even if using a modern PowerPoint presentation, videos or other visual aids – particularly if the material is voluminous and heavy with details, facts, figures, statistics. If not, consider notes or an outline or even bullets for quick review.
Again, preparation is the key and in this format and you will certainly be better safe than sorry.
Fourth, scan the crowd to give the appearance that you’re making eye contact, but don’t lock eyes with anyone, unless you are asking or responding to a specific question. Some say this is folklore, but I say, why risk it!
But is that everything you need to consider? What about your attire; your presentation materials; your demeanor; and the adjustments needed to suit the unique wants and needs of your audience. Anthony Robbins has said, “let your prospect determine your presentation”. Keeping in mind that you never know who’s watching and listening and how important they could be to your career, your life or your legacy – think big! View it as a competition and your goal is to have the award-winning presentation. Consider what’s most important to each of the audience members. Are they most concerned about the protocols, processes and systems? Are they most interested in the ease of access and implementation and the freedom and opportunity it will give them? Are they most focused on how safe and secure the offer is and how beneficial it is to others? Or are they really needing all of the facts and figures, statistics and case studies before they can make a decision to move forward with your proposal.
To connect, as deeply as possible, with as many audience members as possible, use visuals to convey your message.
Consider the technical aspects so you can perform without any glitches – allowing you to shine and make sales. Transform dense and complicated slides into clear visual messages by turning words into pictures and simplifying complex concepts. Be ready to have fun with “hands-on” experiences, giving your audience the opportunity to learn from real-world exercises in the safe setting of the meeting. Participants will take away new ideas and develop visual stories that will make their presentations better and will cause them to feel empowered! This is a victory for you too!!!
Lastly, remember, when it comes to presentations and selling in general, quick, precise and insightful is expected and visual demonstrations will trump text alone, almost every time. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the sudden boom in global platforms such as TED, TEDx, Ignite, Pecha Kucha and the entrepreneurial startup scene. Presentation design is becoming increasingly important and leveraging technology in order to communicate rapidly, accurately and powerfully is critical to your success. This means that presentations are not just a well-crafted speech, read verbatim from a podium, nor is it a fully animated video or movie with sounds and voice overs.
Today’s best “award-winning” presentations are the way of merging speech and visuals to share ideas, move audiences, and change the world!
Now go big or go home!
President & CEO
The Appreciation Agency