Picture this – you’re standing in front of an audience of about 150 people, just about to start a speech that you’ve been preparing for yonks. You haven’t even opened your mouth and suddenly there’s this awful high-pitched squawking from one of the speakers behind you. The soundman who fixed the lapel microphone to you earlier is nowhere to be seen. The once-expectant faces now are looking pained, clearly concerned about their ear drums.
What would you do?
If you want to know what I did, read on.
You see I’ve been busy running networking sessions for large numbers of HSBC Premier Relationship Managers around the country.
And as part of my preparation, I’ve been scouring the highly recommended books on giving great talks, speeches etc. One book which was brought to my attention was the Presentation Coach by Graham Davies. Not the snappiest title in the world, I’m sure you’ll agree. But the content is dynamite. I’d urge you to buy a copy (no, I’m not getting commission).
As I know you’re in the business of communicating ideas to people, I thought I’d share just a few of my favourite bits to encourage you to get your own copy…
1. The mantra of the 21st century presenter should be: “Say it, support it, shut it.”
2. Openings: Imagine that a presentation is like your steamiest love affair. The moment when it began should be unforgettable. I am sure you didn’t waste any time with pleasantries like,
“It really is a great pleasure to meet someone as attractive as you, and I look forward to getting to know you better, but before we start, let me show you this organisational chart, so that you can see where I fit into the Davies family…”
3. What the audience are thinking at the start: please don’t waste my time and tell me something I already know. Please give me something to make my life easier.
4. It is possible to prepare too much, it is possible to rehearse too much, it is never possible to know too much about your audience.
5. Remember that an audience is an inherently selfish entity. You must treat them as a dinner party bore, who is unhappy unless you’re talking about him. This is the universal core audience attitude, “I’ve had enough of thinking about my needs. What do YOU think about my needs?”
6. The success of your presentation depends on how much what you want to say coincides with what they want and need to hear.
7. Your content – Are you sure that you’re not asking them to absorb too much information in the time available? Remember that the mind cannot accept what the bottom cannot endure.
8. Complexity kills communication.
So what did I do, standing all on my own up there? Well moved away from the squawking speaker to start with. I smiled trying to conceal my horror wanting the floor to open up. I mean it wasn’t like we hadn’t done a microphone check already.
Fortunately the kindly camera man came to my rescue, altered something on the sound desk and I could get going. However it was a big learning point for me. You see, what I’d failed to do is while checking the microphone was walk around the room. Making my entrance from the back of the room, entailed walking past a speaker. Yep those of you who are technically advanced are now rolling your eyes. And those of you who aren’t –plot your path to the stage with precision.
The good news is that I’ve helped the South West Premier team over achieve their targets by 61%, so if you’d like to read more about it, check out the case study.