Posts Tagged ‘audience’

‘Winging it’ is for the Birds.

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

Colorful silhouettes of flying birds.THE PRESENTER TRAP

The four deadliest words a prospective presenter can say are, “I’ll just wing it.”

When it comes to presentation excellence, professionalism is synonymous with preparation. Audiences may forgive initial jitters but they will rarely forgive an unpolished performance. In a highly competitive business world ‘winging it’ is risky business. Be prepared. Be professional. You may be a subject expert however this alone does not ensure that you can effectively communicate your knowledge to an audience.

You may argue, “I know someone who is a great presenter and she tells me she wings it all the time.” I would receive the proclamation with caution and skepticism.  You may recall the student who told you she only starts studying the night before exams and always gets an ‘A’.  Believing this to be true, the next time you have an exam you cram the night before only to be shocked when you receive an ‘F’.  I’m not so cynical to think that the ‘A’ student was leading you to fail, but rather, she likely wanted to impress you with her scholastic expertise. Having said that, there are those amazing few presenters who have the innate talent to deliver presentations with limited preparation.  The rest of we mortals need to plan and practice.

Audiences know when you lack preparation and they don’t like it. It makes them feel that you didn’t think they were worth the time. They attend presentations with high expectations and low attention spans. To keep people engaged requires substantive content and dynamic delivery. A sign that you have successfully engaged your audience is when you are able to stop them from reaching for their smartphones while you speak.

A DISCIPLINED PROCESS

One of the first questions I ask when coaching a client is, “What’s your process? The common response is, “I build a deck and put speaker notes below the slides.” A good start but that is only about 50% of the equation. Your road to success begins with a disciplined process which is a combination of efficient planning and diligent practice.  As one of my acting instructors once said, “It is not how many hours you practice, but rather how you practice in those hours.”

I have my clients deliver their presentations twice in a row to see if they are able to repeat the presentation with consistent content and delivery.  You don’t want to be a ‘one hit wonder’ who presents on a wing and a prayer.  The high standard of delivery and messaging needs to be repeatable. Imagine if you attended a theatre production on a night when the cast was performing erratically – lines missed, sloppy staging, and lack of enthusiasm. You would feel cheated by the experience and the ticket price.

BEWARE THE SHORTER IS EASIER MYTH

There is a popular misconception that a shorter presentation is easier to prepare.

A shorter presentation doesn’t mean you can take shortcuts. It is known among professional speakers that the less time you are given to speak, the greater the challenge. Short presentations can actually require more preparation than a lengthier one. Why?  You have limited time to engage your audience and communicate your ideas.  The messages need to be delivered with precision. Economy of words is critical.  This notable saying underscores the point, “If I had more time I would have written a shorter letter.”

REDUCE NERVOUSNESS

The more you practice the less nervous you will be.  If you have anxiety when you speak, particularly when stakes are high, why sabotage yourself by not being properly prepared?  Some people think they need oxygen and medication to make it through their presentation. What they really need is to prepare and practice to build their confidence.

Here is a list of suggestions to practice properly:

  1. Deliver at performance level.
  2. Time your presentation for repeatable consistency and continuity.
  3. Visualize a positive response.
  4. Practice advancing slides along with verbal transitions.
  5. Tape record your presentation to evaluate your delivery and refine content.
  6. Repeat process and refine content and delivery until you feel confident.

Laughing and Learning: A Perfect Pairing

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Group of Multiethnic Cheerful People ApplaudingWhy pair laughing and learning?  Because it works.  Humour is one of the best ways to get your messages across, particularly if your audiences can identify with the stories you tell.   This also means that it is important to know your audience.

I use humour throughout my speeches and workshops and close my presentations with material that leaves my audiences laughing. Why is it important to do so? Because I believe the joyful memory will stay with them for the rest of the meeting and beyond.  If that memory is retained, then chances are, so will my messages.

Recall some of your favourite leaders, colleagues, trainers, and speakers.  The memorable ones are those who use a combination of compelling stories and humour to effectively communicate their messages. Of course we need substance –  proof points and concrete information to support what we are saying.  However, we also need to create balance with a lighter outlook.

Even Shakespeare knew the necessity of comic relief.  In his most tragic plays like, King Lear and Hamlet, he gave the audience a break from the intensity of the action by introducing a comedic scene.  There is a reason this interlude is called ‘comic relief ’.

Incorporating humour does not mean you have to be a comedian or joke teller.  It is about approaching your audience with a lightness of being.  It is about using humourous stories to encourage others to see solutions and possibilities, and to generate a collective positive experience.  People who share a healthy sense of humour tend to energize a room and engage colleagues and clients.

The next time you lead a meeting or deliver a presentation, consider ways to include humour – a lightness of being.  Your audiences will be attentive and grateful.

Presentation Logistics: Be Your Own Stage Manager

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Presentation room.001You have been invited to give a presentation. You prepare your content, build your slides, and practice your delivery. Excellent. But have you given any consideration to the logistics involved to ensure that your presentation will go smoothly?  I refer to those common obstacles that can impair your performance, such as: no microphone when you expected there to be one; poor staging so that you find yourself straining to see the screen; no one to help set up a projector that is totally foreign to you; the extension or VGA chords are missing; you expected tables to facilitate interactive exercises but the room is set up classroom style.

Whether presenting in a boardroom or ballroom you need to control your presentation environment to establish the best audience engagement and speaker ease.  Many presenters presume that this is the sole responsibility of those organizers. This is not the case. The reality is, you are the one alone in front of the audience, so better look after yourself. You have more control than you think.

There are several actions you can take prior to the meeting and one site at the venue. You want to minimize the unknowns. The more you plan in advance the greater confidence you will have when you present on site and less chance of being derailed by unforeseen circumstances. Logistical management is just as important as practicing your presentation.  You likely have enough anxiety about presenting so why escalate the situation by having to deal with unsettling and unexpected obstacles?

Sometimes there is a technicians and on site to help you and they act as the Stage Manager. Introduce yourself and ask for any special directions that will help you interact with the A/V devices most effectively.  Prior to presenting, a professional speaker will walk the stage, do a sound check, practice with the remote, and review the slides. If there is no Technician or Planner support then you need to be your own Stage Manager.  Follow the seven important steps on the checklist to ensure that you are ready to confidently present.

CHECKLIST FOR LOGISTICS

  1. Copy your slideshow and speaker notes on a flash drive or in a virtual cloud like Dropbox or iCloud
  2. Print a hard copy.
  3. Inspect your laptop case includes your charger.  If you have a MAC make bring your own a VGA adapter as on site technicians may not provide these.
  4. Bring your own remote.  Keep extra batteries in your laptop case.
  5. Provide your own travel clock – you can buy one for under $10
  6. Make sure you receive clear directions to the venue.
  7. Give yourself plenty of travel time. Allow for traffic and find out where park in advance.  Arriving in a panic is not a good way to start or fair to the organizer.

© Lorraine Behnan, ExpressionLab Communications Inc.

Speech Versus Presentation

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Woman presenter

Often in my presentation workshops and private speaker coaching sessions I am asked, “What is the difference between a speech and a presentation?” If you Google this question you will see many similar responses. A speech is only words with no slide support. A presentation is interactive with the use of slideware.

Today’s business world requires a hybrid scenario. We want to effectively communicate ideas while ensuring audience connection and retention in order to achieve our goals. Not everyone is an orator who can engage people for 30 minutes or more, so we tend to rely on slides for support and audience engagement. Used sparingly and selectively, slides can help underscore a message or illustrate an example.  Most importantly, however, you need to deliver your ideas with dynamic speech and animated body language. Breathe life into the content.

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Beyond the Joy of Speaking

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Hand shape of heartI am so fortunate to do what I do. This past month two more experiences reminded me again how wonderful it is to be a professional speaker.  The speaking is only a part of the job satisfaction. I love communicating with audiences, making them laugh, inviting them to reflect, and encouraging them to think. That’s half of the joy. The balance is the opportunity to meet such interesting and diverse people, and to learn about companies and organizations that I would otherwise not encounter.

The Deaf-Blind Coalition of Ontario and Cambrian College invited me to be a guest speaker at their respective events. My experiences are always positive. So, what was particularly special about these two?  Let me start with the Deaf-Blind Coalition.  Sharing the stage with me were two incredibly talented Sign Language Interpreters.  Signers tag-team, each sharing the stage for 10 minute intervals.  Not only were these phenomenal duo instantly interpreting my words – they were interpreting me! They were a reflection of my performance, capturing my style and messages perfectly. I was in awe.  Almost to the point where I wanted to stop speaking and watch them!  They embodied everything I try to encourage my audiences to embrace in their personal and professional lives: passion, focus, spontaneity, teamwork. There was a dinner prior to my presentation so we sat together to get to know each other. They were quick studies and demonstrated a wonderful sense of humour.

Cambrian College in Sudbury is a State of the Art institution.  While I was waiting to receive a tour of the facility, a music student graciously accepted my request for him to play his guitar.  Without hesitation or fanfare he played an emotionally charged classical piece.  The tour was another highlight.  From the training kitchens of the Chef School to the Wabode Aboriginal Centre and it’s with enchanting meditation centre.  I plan to return and enjoy a meal at the Fontaine Bleue operated by the Hotel and Restaurant Management Department, and take a meditation class with the remarkable Debbie Robertson.