Monday, May 2, 2016

Want the audience to listen? Make 'em care.

Let's face it; sometimes we've been in our business too long. We're so well-versed, so immersed, so totally completely "in it" we can't remotely remember what it was like pre-obsession/thought leader/expert. While it's great to be super knowledgeable and enthusiastic about our message, it's not so great to dive right in and begin speaking about it without first ensuring it has meaning - real, significant meaning - for our audience. 

If we're being honest with ourselves, we often assume, especially when we're asked to pitch or present our product or service, that our audience already knows the importance of it. We think it is our job to simply describe what makes us different, better, of more value than our competitor. We jump right into "all about us, our product, our service, our mission" before making sure it matters to them. No wonder we're getting blank stares, yawns, discreet (and not so discreet) phone surfing. Your audience is thinking, "Who cares?"

At bespeak, we begin our presentations by drawing a "picture" for the audience, metaphorically speaking. A picture of their world, their goals and/or problems. Possibly a picture of their industry, their competitors, the economic environment  they're facing. Rather than beginning with the "All about us and how great our stuff is" show, we begin with their world, what they're worried about or aspiring to. This gets their attention. Why? Because it's about them. And that's what they (and all of us, really) care most about. Ourselves.

Occasionally, we must create relevance. Our audience may not be aware of a very real threat or a very real opportunity ( solved or attained by our product or service, mission, etc). We must shine a big bright light on this threat or opportunity, explain it clearly and compellingly before we ever begin talking about our solution. We must create the interest, the relevance to them and their world.  We must make them care.

Before your next presentation, whether it be a formal pitch or an informal informational one. Ask yourself as an audience member; why would I care about this? Why does it matter to me? How will it positively affect my life/work/success? If you can't answer these questions, STOP, and determine the answers. These will form the beginning of your presentation. The all important part of making them care about your message. Do that and you'll be heard.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

5 tiny tips to be a better presenter TODAY

Sure, there are BIG IMPORTANT things to do to be a great presenter.  Things like turning your focus 180 degrees, organizing your presentation in threes, and PRACTICING OUT LOUD. Here are five tiny, but equally important, things you can start doing today, right now, to be a better, more effective presenter. They're "tiny" because they require virtually no effort on your part, but the results they provide will be, to quote my family's favorite elf, "ginormous."

1) Smile! At your audience! Forget your fear, forget your conviction that you're not a great presenter, that you're totally uncomfortable in front of a group of people and SMILE. C'mon, just do it. Great things will happen when you do.  First great thing: your audience will smile back - they won't be able to help themselves; we're physiologically or sociologically programmed to smile at another person when they smile at us. Second great thing: you will literally feel better when you smile - smiling makes our bodies feel good. Third great thing: when our audience smiles back at us their bodies will feel good!  It's a virtual circle of feeling good. How great is that? Plus, when you look at your audience and smile, the message you're sending is, "I'm happy (and confident) to be here." That gives them confidence in you and what you're about to say. Great way to begin, right? But wait - there's more...

2) Make eye contact.  I know, I know, some "genius" told you that if you're afraid of public speaking just look over the audience's heads. Bad bad bad advice. How can I connect with you if I don't look you in the eye?  How can I know if you agree, disagree, if you're confused, bored, angry, tired...? Remember, the audience doesn't feel like a big scary blob. They feel like what they are - individual people.  They are there to be communicated with, and a big part of that communication is eye contact. Look at 'em. And smile. See?  Nothin' to be scared of.

3) Stand still.  At least for the first two to three minutes or so.  Allow your audience to get a clear look at you.  In these first few minutes they're determining how they feel about you and thus, about what you have to tell them.  Allow them these first few minutes to make that determination.  It will make it much easier for them to give their full attention to your message.

4)  Go short.  No one ever faulted a speaker for ending their presentation five or even ten minutes early. In fact, if you're speaking at a conference and you're the speaker just before lunch or (worse) just before cocktails, tell your audience at the start of your presentation that you're going to shorten your remarks. You'll be a hero before you say another word!  One note of caution; don't go too short in these situations or you'll mess up the conference hosts' schedule. Always let your audience know that you'll be around after your presentation to answer any questions or hear any thoughts they might have. 

5) Thank 'em.  I begin and end every presentation by sincerely thanking my host and the audience. (This makes it easy to smile, by the way.)  Not only do I mean it, but I believe it's good manners. They've invited me to speak, often at their own time and expense. I am their guest, and as such I want to show gratitude. Begin and end each of your presentations with a sincere "thank you". Gratitude is always a good thing, and will endear you to your audience right from the start.

None of these five "tiny" tips are difficult, or even new or different.  They're easy to implement immediately and most important - they work. Do them and you will be connecting positively with your audience right from the beginning of your presentation and you'll be heard.