Rikk’s obvious secrets for successfully speaking to a group of people revealed.
I am always pleased to receive positive feedback after one of my public speaking engagements. Sometimes the adulation is embarrassing but appreciated. It is a good thing to know you are hitting the mark. The comments are usually something like this:
“Wow, you are really a good speaker.” or “You really look comfortable up there.” “That was a great presentation.”
While the accolades are all well and good, few people ask the next question. Namely: How did you pull off such a great presentation?
Here, today, I am going to reveal my four secrets to a great presentation.
1. Know your subject
You can’t speak authentically on any topic unless you know the details and understand the inner workings. If you don’t you are simply reciting facts. You can offer little insight. God-forbid you have a question from the audience that varies from your script. (Audiences seldom ask questions that are answered directly from the script-they are like that.) Either speak about what you know or learn about what you speak. Don’t think you can BS your way out of it.
When asked, I explain the greatest downfall most speakers experience is the belief that they can ‘wing it’. Even subjects on which I am considered expert and present often, I rehearse maniacally. Even if it is a presentation I have given before-many times, I still review the main points and do a complete dress rehearsal. (See Previous Post on this topic). The average presentation I give has three to four rehearsals over the days leading up to its delivery.
3. Be True to your message
If your message is informative, be informative. If your message is designed to instill passion, be passionate. The message may be crafted to shock and change people. If so, be shocking and demand change. Whatever your purpose in standing before a group of people and delivering a message, be true to the message. If you don’t feel it and deliver it, they won’t get it.
4. Have a conversation
There is nothing more genuine that some who is being genuine. You can’t fake it. Talk to your audience as if they are a friend for they should be. Speak as if the conversation is taking place between just two people. Look them in the eye(s). Speak to them as individuals even though they are in a group. Engage them. React to them. Empathize, adapt, and reengage. A group of people tempts the speaker to ‘talk at them’. Don’t. Talk to them.
Notice I didn’t mention PowerPoint or Keynote. I didn’t labor over slides and notes. Those are tools to help a speaker deliver a message. Just as a laser pointer is nice to have, you can usually do without it and may even do better without it. With a few notable exceptions (Photography Presentations), you can usually give a presentation without visual aids and you should be prepared to do just that.
If the projector bulb burns out, can you still go on and deliver something of meaning? If the laptop fails, will the presentation continue? If the moderator suddenly tells you they are over on time and you have to cut your one hour to a half hour, could you? These are all details of the environment of your presentation-not components of the presentation itself. Remember that.
I was at PowerPoint Live in San Diego when the power failed in a 10-block region around the hotel. I was in Nancy Duarte’s presentation at the time. Aside from a bemused rolling of her eyes and a deep breath, it didn’t phase her. She picked up her laptop, running on battery, turned its screen to the crowd and proceeded to deliver her message with crippled visuals. The message came through. Nancy knew her subject, rehearsed, was true to the message and engaged us in a much more intimate conversation than we’d expected.
It is easy to be mired in the details of slides, pointers, podiums and notes. That is all window dressing. The presentation is you. Follow my four tips and you will have a better presentation experience.
When asked, how I do it, I usually just smile and say. “Rehearse!”
Rikk Flohr © 2009