One of the most impactful ways to increase professional credibility is by delivering a powerful presentation. Here are some quick tips for transforming your platform presence from fizzle to sizzle!
Know your objective.
What is the purpose of the presentation? Is it to inform, educate, inspire, or entertain? Or all of the above? The style and structure of your speech will vary depending on the intended outcome. Inspirational speeches can be more casual and include more storytelling than, for example, a quarterly update to your company’s board of directors.
Know your audience.
Knowing the general make up of your audience as it relates to gender, age, educational level or industry will allow you to better customize your message. Take the time to do the research and allow what you know about the audience to drive your selection of anecdotes. Hint: Millennials have no idea who Lawrence Welk was, and Baby Boomers may not have an instagram or twitter account. Knowing your audience allows you to better connect with them. The better you connect, the more sizzle you generate!
Make a great first impression.
Think of your presentation as a blind date. Like it or not, your audience will decide within the first three minutes of your “date” whether they want to invest attention and energy in you. Make those first few minutes count. I always open with a story designed to make the audience think or laugh. Laughter is the great equalizer. It reduces the stress your audience may be feeling and enhances a speaker’s likeability. Jokes are cliché. Tell stories. Besides, life is funnier. Show your sass!
No guts, no glory!
Walk away from the podium during your presentation. It helps you better connect with your audience, but more importantly, say NO to PowerPoint. PowerPoint was originally designed as a tool to enhance presentations but has become a crutch for most presenters as well as the surest way to give your audience permission to nap. Most PowerPoints are glorified notes that many speakers merely read to the audience. Snooze fest. Just remember, people don’t know what they don’t know. Your audience will never know if you forgot something. Fake it till you make it. I was once the final keynote speaker at a conference after an entire day of PowerPoint-heavy presentations. When I opened my presentation, I walked to the edge of the stage, looked my audience in the eyes, and announced that I would not be closing out their day with another PowerPoint. The audience erupted in thunderous applause. Be gutsy or be forgotten.
No shirts. No shoes. No service.
I don’t know whose idea it was to “picture your audience in their underwear,” that sure never worked for me. My approach to getting the “butterflies to fly in formation” is to remember that everyone has their insecurities. No audience is filled with perfect people. No audience is made up of people who never made mistakes. I remind myself every time I walk onto a stage that when I have the courage to be authentic, it allows others to be the same. No one is sitting in the audience hoping you will fail. A presentation is a shared experience. When you succeed, they succeed right along with you. Think of audience members as friends, not critics and you’ll feel the jitters disappear.
Communication is much more than words.
The words you speak are only a small fraction of your message. Let your body move. Let your arms be free. Tell your face that you are happy to be there! That only happens when you stop thinking about yourself and focus on your audience and the message. Consider how your body relaxes when you are telling your friends about the amazing weekend you had. In that moment, you aren’t thinking about what to do with your hands (or folding them in front of you, fig leaf style). You aren’t thinking about whether you used the proper word or how you should stand. You are solely focused on the thrill of the moment. Some call it enthusiasm. Others call it passion. I call it sizzle, and sizzle is the important ingredient in your presentation that will make the experience so engaging they can’t ignore you!
“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” – Steve Martin
This article was originally printed in the Winter 2016 issue of Sass Magazine.