If you don’t know about it – Don’t Talk About It
For some odd reason, I had always thought that if someone invited me to offer a keynote address on a particular topic, I needed to be an expert on the entire field surrounding the focus of my presentation. I don’t care if we are talking about a 5-minute presentation to a group of ten people or a four-hour educational seminar to over 250 folks. I have given hundreds of presentations to audiences from 5 folks to over 500. If there is ONE thing that rings true – it’s this: Don’t Speak Out of School! Just because you may have 20 years of experience in a particular field, doesn’t mean you know a darn thing about the latest technology associated with it. People don’t want to hear what you don’t know; they don’t want to watch you fail (no matter how much you may doubt yourself.) They want to learn something from you. They want to you succeed and teach them and find the time they have invested in listening to you to be of value – to talk about what you DO know. There is NO faster way to lose credibility with an audience than to make uninformed commentary, period. There are plenty of methods available to speak around those points, address them and then move on.
There is something to be said about the rule of 7. If you have not run completely through your material, from how you enter the room, to how you set down your attach? to the moment you are introduced, to which opening words you choose, and if you cannot do it all by heart you are not prepared. Your focus should NEVER be on remembering what your message is. You should have already memorized and internalized your content before you attempt to speak in front of anyone! Instead, your focus should be on delivering your message. It never hurts to review your content one additional time. When you “think” you know it, you don’t. When you “know” that you know it – you are ready to work on your presentation style.
Your Body Can Betray You
How are you sitting in your chair right this very moment while reading this? Are your shoulders back? Are you sitting up straight? Have you ever found yourself in a conversation where you know for a fact that the information you are attempting to communicate with another individual is accurate and they refuse to listen or accept what you are saying to them? Were you having a conversation or were you talking AT someone? Don’t let your physical behaviors betray your verbal communications. The key to being a great presenter is to share an experience with your audience and to connect with them. While your lips are moving, what is the rest of your body doing? There are a few things you must do before you can change from talking “at” people to talking “to” people. First of all, relax your facial muscles. Exhale. Hold your shoulders up to your ears for a couple of seconds. Then, let them drop to your side. If you are standing, make sure your knees are not locked. Do not shift your weight to only one of your hips. Distribute your weight evenly between both feet. Use open fluid gestures, and NEVER POINT at someone. Instead, open your hand palm facing the ceiling as you gesture in the direction of the person you are speaking to or addressing. Do not cover your mouth/face with any part of your hand. Whether you realize it or not, the common reaction is that you are not trustworthy or are hiding something if you do this. Remember to breath. Measure your breath. Every movement you make should be deliberate and from a place of confidence. Your posture is the biggest sign you provide your audience as to your level of comfort. Be comfortable, it shows!
Sharks in the Audience – Protect Yourself
There are some tricks of the trade you simply cannot teach that is just learned through “doing.” One such skill is picking out your sharks. These are the few people who are either unhappy they are there, don’t like you personally, have judged you and decided they don’t like you, maybe unhappy people, are impossible to please, or are bored with your presentation. You generally have an idea of who these people are before you begin because they reveal themselves to you in one way or another. Bottom line, they smell blood in the water and go in for the kill. The best way to avoid allowing these people to take your presentation off track is preparation. Stay on topic, keep your smile up no matter how they interject, and remember that the audience wants you to be a success. Their time means something to them and they have chosen to share it with you. Take away a shark’s teeth before they have the chance to bite. Establish ground rules at the beginning of your presentation. Ask people to turn their phones to vibrate. Instruct them that as questions arise, to feel free to raise their hand and ask them. If you do not want to stop in the middle of a section, instruct people that you have a lot of material to cover in that section and ask that they hold their questions until the end. If you take care of these items up front, you can avoid those frustrations and interruptions.
Not Having Fun? Neither is Your Audience
The most important thing you have to offer your audience is energy. If you are not enthused, why should they be? I do understand that some content does not lend itself to the same level of humor and interest as others. Remember that I used to speak about insurance and investments, and there are some topics that I struggled to cover with enthusiasm. However – if you can relate the topics that you are presenting on to something you are passionate about in your personal life, you will win over your audience. Your energy can be electric! If I know that you love fishing – then I will forgive your fishing analogy, even if I find fishing boring, because I can see the excitement you are showing. People may not always remember what you said to them, but they will always remember how they felt when they heard you speak. Let’s recap – Know your content. Prepare yourself. Control and relax your body. Protect and Enjoy yourself! Minor changes in your behavior can mean MAJOR changes in your business. Awareness and Confidence can lead to enhanced communication and networking. Change starts with you!