Your presentation starts the moment the meeting is announced – with your name on the agenda. Pick up the phone and interview a few participants, email a simple survey, open discussion with a blog, post a question to a group on LinkedIn or Facebook, start a unique wiki about your presentation, etc. There are a ton of technologies out there to enable you to start the conversation before your presentation even begins. And, the side benefit is that you are doing research on the audience (see prior post!)
Here’s what I mean by engaging early. When Don Tapscott, author of the bestseller Wikinomics, was the keynote speaker at Meeting Professionals International (MPI), he reached out to the MPI registrants. According to CEO Bruce MacMillan, “he blogged with them, invited questions before the event, and considered them; he built them right into his presentation. In essence, he built the presentation around the interests of his audience even before they got there. The audience felt like they were personally involved. They felt like they could see their fingerprints all over the content he delivered. And so they got more out of it… it was personal, and the people who were in the audience felt that they had collaborated and created something remarkable.”
Question: Are you engaging the audience before you even step up to the front of the room to give your presentation?
Even though there are a bazillion meetings a day in North America, we have all been in the exact same kind of meeting: The presenter is sharing boatloads of information about the topic…far too much for you to care about, no less understand. Your eyelids begin to droop and sleepy time is close at hand.
Rather than spew forth everything you know about your topic, do your research. Find out who will be in the audience, their hopes, fears, interests, and, most important – why they will even bother to come to your presentation. Then tailor your speech to connect your comments with what they care about. Not the ones you think they should care about. This is a subtle distinction with dramatic implications. If you do not address something that helps make their lives better or improve the lives of people they care about, you will be boring. Guaranteed.
Want a quick way to know whether your presentation is all about you or oriented toward the audience? Here’s a simple litmus test: Count the number of times you use the words “I, me, mine, my” versus the more inclusive words of “you, yours, we, ours”. Are you speaking more about yourself or about your audience?
Pilgrim on the 405, you say? Will Crist is the pilgrim….not sure why he calls himself a “pilgrim” but he’s off the San Diego Freeway in my hometown of Los Angeles. His radio show is geared to CEOs talking about what he’s learned as he talks to decision-makers in the San Angeles corridor. In our pre-programming meeting, he made these five observations about those companies who are wildly successful in this correcting economy:
- They are radically customer-centric.
- Their customers are buying your intelligence about what is coming around the corner, not just your products and services.
- Customers are buying and using non-proprietary solutions that are open, integrated, and collaborative.
- They are leveraging expertise of others.
- Innovation is the key to the game.
How are you stacking up?
In this interview, he essentially asked three questions:
1) What does the CEO need to be thinking about as he pulls his strategic team together?
2) How should a CEO present a new strategy to their employees?
3) How should a salesperson sell up to the CEO when he or she is used to selling to technical managers?
Listen to this interview on 6/9/2010 for the answers!
A few weeks ago, I was facilitating a few breakout/roundtable sessions at a conference with several hundred people. Thought I would check out the main session speaker – who was actually very good BUT she got stuck on one side of the room.
Unfortunately, the projection screen was situated in the middle of the room with the multimedia projector on a little table in the center. Rather than standing in the swath of light (thank you!), she stood on one side of the room and rarely ventured over to the other side. Poor folks on the neglected side of the room were very gracious, but you could tell they were just not as connected to the speaker nor to the message.
What to do? Put the screen on the right side of the room (from the speaker’s vantage point). Why downstage right and not the left? Western audiences naturally read from right to left, so you are making it easier for the audiences to look at the screen when something changes and then to look at you!
Place the screen at the same depth as you will be standing at the front and as close to your center position so the audience’s eyes won’t have to travel a great distance from you to the screen. And here’s the added benefit, should you have to point to something on the screen, you can use your right hand without turning your back to the audience!
Question: Please take the poll to the right and let’s see where you usually see the screen!
Once upon a time, I was facilitating a strategic planning session sponsored by two senior executives at an undisclosed company. Each of the two executives opened the session in two distinct ways:
Executive #1 went to the front of the room and thanked the participants for coming. He said he was excited about the work we were going to do. Ho hum. Nice, but boring.
Executive #2 went to the front of the room and started with a story about driving his car….to work? to their biggest client’s office? to the beach? to Disneyland? He immediately engaged the participants by creating an analogy between his drive and the group’s strategic planning efforts. The audience was much more interested in his remarks…they were different, they were personal, and all could see themselves driving to Disneyland!
It doesn’t take much effort to create an effective opener. My longtime friend, Bob Heffley, President of QuadTech Marine Inc. was just telling me about his opening to a technical presentation about his innovative quadrimaran ship design. He starts by saying “I have a 52 slide presentation.” He then pauses to watch their faces while that sinks in. Then Bob says, “But I’m only going to use 13 of them if that’s OK
with you.” It’s like commuting a death sentence. Go from Boring to Bravo!
Question: What do you do to engage the audience at the beginning of your presentation?