I have been thinking about what Olivia said in one of her many thoughtful comments here. She mentioned that presenters should “say it differently every time.” That is so true!
Unfortunately, many speakers don’t do that. They pull out their good old standard speech that they have given 30 times before and proceed to do it again for the 31st time – same delivery, same tone, same pitch, same old jokes, blah blah blah. They don’t know the audience. Worst yet – they don’t care. They don’t gauge their delivery AND content to the audience. They don’t realize that every audience is different – even though they may come from the same business sector. The whole presentation becomes a one-way conversation – from the speaker to the audience.
The best way to gauge an audience is to talk to them before your presentation – if you can. If you can’t, you can do a QUICK poll before your talk. I do that with my seminar participants. These are environmental managers with varying background and experience. Every group is different. I always go around the room after a very brief intro and ask them to answer three questions: what do you do? why are you here? what do you hope to get out of this 2 day seminar?
I then tailor my presentation accordingly. (By the way – no amount of rehearsal can prepare me for this!).
I know I know – I had said in an earlier post that you should not do polling. But that was for a one-hour webinar. For a 2-day seminar, it is OK to spend several minutes polling the audience. It also gives the audience a chance to know who their follow attendees are and begin the all-important process of networking among them.
Here is a Keynote presentation made by Steve Jobs when he introduced the iPod back in 2001. It pretty much set the standards for good presentation. Not a single bullet point in sight. The most complicated slide is at around 2:50 when he showed a 4 x 4 comparison matrix that is easy to read and elegant. It is a joy to watch. We should all study it and learn from it.
See for yourself. As they say – the rest is history.
I just love Tom Peters. He is the best speaker (sorry – I meant to say salesman) I know. Bar none. Listen to what he has to say about sales:
When you make a presentation, you are selling something to someone. You are selling an idea to your colleagues. You are selling your business proposal to potential clients. If you are a teacher, you are not really teaching – you are really selling your knowledge to your students. If your presentation sucks, your students turns you off and nothing is taught.
The term “salesman” or “sales” has gotten a bad rap. It is not cool to be called a salesman. We sometimes associate sales to used car salesman. And that’s not fair to sales. We refer to used car salesman as those people who are too slick and too unethical in their dealings with customers. It is the same in the presentation world. If a presentation is too slick or comes off too smoothly, we become suspicious of the speaker. We think he is not one of us – and rightly so too.
So that’s another reason why you should never over-rehearse your presentation to the point where people think you are too slick. It needs spontaneity. And from it comes sincerity and credibility. Without credibility, no one will buy from you.
When you make a presentation, you are communicating with your audience. I have said many times that you are in effect having a conversation with the folks in front of you. Having a conversation involves LISTENING. Listen to what management guru Tom Peters has to say about listening. Wow!
How do you listen while making a presentation? You pay attention to the audience. You listen through your eyes in addition to your ears. If members of your audience are dozing off, your eyes are “telling” you that you are boring and you are using too many bullet points.
I just came off a recorded webinar on the subject of “Do you have what it takes to be a virtual online trainer?”. Interesting enough topic – right? That’s why I went there.
The webinar started off with a moderator giving a 3-minute “overview” of a very complicated home page. She was trying to explain to the audience what each and every button on the screen (and there were lots of them) was supposed to do. And then the instructor (or “coach” as she called herself) came on and fumbled with her speaker volume for a minute – apologizing all along about why it was hard for the audience to hear her. And then she went on and “polled” the audience for another 3 minutes – asking the audience to complete a long series of inane questions. After that fiasco, she spent 3 more minutes telling the audience about her life story – as if anyone really cared. There was a LOT of idle chatter.
It wan’t until 12 minutes – yes 12 long minutes later – that she began to talk about the subject of her webinar: Do you have what it takes to be a virtual online trainer?
Of course, all her slides were loaded with mind numbing bullet points. That’s about the time I clicked off.
Here are some lessons we can all learn from this horrific experience:
First of all, keep everything SIMPLE!!! If you have to spend a minute (let alone 3!) to show people how to navigate around your site, it is TOO complicated!
Second. Fix your technological problems BEFORE you come on your webinar – not during. I am not a big fan of long rehearsals. But this is where rehearsal comes in handy. Test your mike before you come on – please.
Third. Forget about polling the audience before you get into the meat of your webinar. The noble intent of polling your audience is to customize your presentation to the needs of your audience. Most speakers don’t do that. They go on with their pre-determined content. Poll it afterwards if you must.
Fourth. Keep your life story to a minimum. No one cares how many dogs and cats you have unless you are doing a webinar on pets. Please keep your idle chatter down. People set aside their valuable time to hope to learn from you. Show some respect and don’t waste their time.
One last point: What’s with this thing about calling yourself a “coach”? When people say coach, I think of Bobby Knight. LOL. Maybe it is just me, shouldn’t the term “coach” be reserved for basketball, baseball and football? I know someone who calls himself a “life coach” – presumably to teach his clients about dealing with life and finance. He has been divorced multiple times and his house is in foreclosure. Is that the kind of coach you want?