NEVER Assume When It Comes to Your Presentation


Posted on 25th February 2012 by Kristin Arnold in Group Interaction |Interview |Questions |Set The Tone |U R #1 Visual

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Last night, I attended the Phoenix Business Journal Women in Business Awards Program.  450 men and women gathered to celebrate the success of 25 women who are leading the way in the Phoenix area.  Held at the historic Biltmore Hotel, I was thrilled to meet so many influential women.

Why?  After 20 years of facilitating high level meetings, I still don’t see a huge influx of women in the boardroom.  I won’t go into why (I’ll share that for another post!), but I will share that I was proud to see our community embracing these women.  As the publisher announced the name and read a short bio, the award recipient reached into a bowl and drew out a question to be answered – and then answered it!  Most of the comments were genuine, heartfelt and superb advice for anyone (man or woman) who aspires to be a leader.  One woman actually said, “World Peace” in a nod to the Miss America Pageant!  All in all, it was a truly enjoyable evening and I will plan on attending next year.

Although…..I hate to admit it.  I was disappointed at the same time.  Each of these lovely women were in the front row and were not called up onto the main stage to answer the question.  I understand why, as one woman quipped, “Glad I didn’t have to wear a bathing suit for this!”.  However, the award recipients were standing in the dark, with a small halo of light shining from behind them from the main stage – where they should have been.

Even the keynoter, Renie Cavallari, had to artfully dance from the right to the left of the mainstage during her presentation.  Why?  Because the multimedia projector (which was on a center table) was ON the entire time!  If Renie spent any time center stage, she was illuminated with the bright red scrolling, the name of the event, and the event sponsor logos.  When I chatted with Renie later (she is also a member of NSA), she had “assumed” the audio/visual (A/V) people would have blanked the screen.

It really was no big deal.  Renie is a pro and she didn’t let this little snafu bug her one bit. Lesson learned for me is to NEVER assume.  Think through not only the content and delivery of your speech, but the little things that impact the ability of your audience to see you and hear your speech.

One of the ways I try to remember these kinds of things is to have a pre-event packing checklist.  Fellow blogger and author of Confessions of a Public Speaker, Scott Berkun has an even better one here.  Use these checklists as a guide; better yet, develop your own!

What kind of things do you have on your checklist? 

Understanding Your Audience as a Speaker


Posted on 17th November 2011 by Kristin Arnold in Engaging Mindset |Group Interaction |presentation skills |Set The Tone |Uncategorized |Word Choice

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shutterstock_243815101To be an effective, engaging presenter, you have to let go of your own internal conversations and focus on your audience. This means you have to care sincerely about and want to connect with each person in the audience. They need to know that you are putting their needs first. That means you need to know enough about them so they feel they can trust you and will want to listen to you.

Research. We all despise the speaker who delivers his presentation on autopilot, never changing a word. It is the same presentation for one audience as it is for a completely different audience. To engage an audience, a presenter needs to find out their hopes, fears, and interests. Take the time to understand the people, their backgrounds, and the collective culture—often called the “personality” of the group—so you can connect your comments with what they care about.

Content. The actual message you share should address the issues that your audience cares 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 them make their lives better or improves the life of someone they care about, you are dead on arrival.

Make It Personal. Few things can help you bond and establish a connection with a group better than knowing and using people’s names.

• Obtain a participant list ahead of time and read through the list out loud several times. If possible, learn the correct pronunciation of the difficult names.

• As you  meet a new participant, say her name quietly to yourself a few times and make any associations that will help you recall the name later.

More “We” than “Me.” If you are truly focused on the audience, you will use more inclusive language. Rather than saying “I did this” and “Look at me,” you will inherently talk more about them, using either the words “you” or “we.”

Listen. As you are speaking, shift your focus from how you are doing to how the audience is doing. When you “listen” to the audience, you are much more aware of their verbal and nonverbal reactions during your speech. Are they smiling and nodding their heads? Yes; you are in the zone.

Adjust. As you listen to your audience, you can either continue as planned or adapt your speech. Because you aren’t going to hit the mark all the time, always prepare a plan B to pull out of your back pocket. Audiences are quite forgiving as long as they know you care about them. They want you to succeed. So if one technique doesn’t work, try another until you do connect.


Trend #7: Offer Value – Do More Than Show Up To Give Your Speech


Posted on 26th October 2010 by Kristin Arnold in presentation skills |Speaking Trends


shutterstock_198774770Clients are looking for a solution – to relieve their pain, leverage an opportunity, or to make their lives better.  So it is more than just a speech.  It’s a package of value-added services.  Gone are the days when you fly in, do the same speech you do for any and every audience, and fly back out.

The more focused speakers are on presenting solutions, the more clients will value their services. As President of the National Speakers Association, I commissioned a “white paper” to explore the myriad ways speakers can convey value to their clients before, during and after their presentations. Here’s a sampling from the white paper, The Professional Speaker’s Imperative: Bringing Value to Today’s Global and Tech-Savvy Marketplace, although there is much more detail in the actual report, so check it out here.

Before the Meeting:

  • Assess the culture, skills and abilities of their audiences or organizations
  • Advise meeting planners about meeting and speaking logistics
  • Connect with other speakers (internal and external)
  • Meet with client leadership and stakeholders
  • Assess technologies to ensure optimum delivery formats
  • Start a virtual conversation
  • Coach leader(s) and meeting planners before the speaker’s presentation

During the Meeting:

  • Provide a presentation that inspires employees
  • Provide a training or breakout session in new skills, models and tools
  • Moderate or participate in a panel discussion
  • Facilitate a roundtable discussion among peers or diverse stakeholder groups
  • Consult leader(s) on various paths to take and/or consider
  • Moderate or participate in the event

After the Meeting:

  • Facilitate the leadership team to create meaningful plans of action
  • Assist clients in implementing these plans
  • Coach individuals through implementation
  • Provide online follow-up resources

Ongoing Services:

  • Create or provide learning tools and systems to continue or enhance the value of the meeting
  • Participate in company meetings
  • Become an expert spokesperson for the organization
  • Provide additional services, such as assessments, customized training, retreats and special events
  • Mentor specific people within the organization
  • Serve as an ongoing adviser or consultant to the organization

Trend #3: Shorter Lead Times


Posted on 12th October 2010 by Kristin Arnold in presentation skills |Speaking Trends


When meetings came to a screeching halt last year, professional speakers suddenly had some spare time on their hands.  Some organizations cancelled meetings in fear of the AIG effect, and others brought their meetings “under the radar” – holding meetings on property while using internal, industry speakers.  A few months later, when companies started to climb out of the foxhole, they started to call speakers with a drastically reduced lead time.  Many of us were getting calls a few months or even weeks before the program!  Although this is hard to understand from a marketing perspective, this trend is going to continue.

Why are lead times going to stay shorter?  Because the company has more at stake and leadership looks harder at the bottom line impact of each meeting.  So meeting planners are spending more time strategizing “success”, getting approvals from leadership and working to get better deals from the meeting venues.  And, if they wait long enough, they can try to get a better deal from the professional speaker!