Posts Tagged ‘speaker’

Presentations: Always have plans B and C

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Plan A B C.001It is not unusual for a meeting or conference agenda to fall behind.  This can happen for a number of reasons, but one of the most common is speakers running over their assigned presentation times.  If you are asked to be a presenter then you have a responsibility to keep within your assigned limit, to do otherwise is indulgent and disrespectful of those with whom you are sharing the platform, and to the meeting planner who painstakingly developed the program.  Demonstrate professionalism and consideration. Be prepared.

You may have already experienced being that presenter who is the victim of the prolonged agenda. The scenario usually goes something like this.  You are the last, or close to last, speaker on the agenda. Out of the corner of your eye you see the meeting planner approaching with a stealth-like stride. Your inner voice sighs, “Uh, Oh.”, as your body goes tense.  Sure enough, you are asked to cut your 30-minute presentation, which you worked so long and hard to prepare, down to 15 minutes. Your mind races as your presentation flashes before your eyes. What slides should I cut?  What stories should I dump? Shall I speak double time?

Spare yourself this anxiety and be prepared with a Plan B, and possibly a Plan C.  Practice the abbreviated versions in the same way as you would your full presentation.

To determine how to make the edits consider these three questions:

1. What is the most relevant content for this audience?

2. What is the most compelling information?

3. What are the most compact stories and examples?

(Choose stories and examples that require minimal set up and narrative.)

Other Tips to making Edits:

–      Determine the content that is a “need to know’ for the audience versus ‘a nice to know’. The ‘nice to know’ information is the disposable one for your plan B and C

–      Time each story or example so that you know how long it takes to deliver.   Always practice in real-time and at performance level. Speaking more quickly is never a good solution.

–      Limit the number of slides and number of bullets. You can always expand when time allows.  Not every idea has to be displayed in your slide show.

–      Calculate the length of your Q and A and include this as part of your assigned time.  This timing is often overlooked or poorly estimated

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.


  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.

Maximize Speaker Value

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Woman presenter with WhiteboardOrganizations and companies continually look for new ways to create memorable and valuable meetings. One of the most popular practices is to engage a dynamic Keynote Speaker whose role is to set the tone for the day, introduce the theme, and infuse excitement and energy that can be sustained for the duration of the event.

A great keynote speech inspires the audience, encourages a call-to-action, and generates interest to explore the topic further. A memorable keynote adds value to your meeting or event. Many speeches are independent, however, others can be great springboards for workshops.

You can maximize the value of a speech and increase the longevity of its impact by engaging the same speaker to deliver both the keynote speech and lead or facilitate a workshop on the same day. This is an option that is becoming more in demand to increase the sustainability of an event.

Here’s how the  combined offering of Keynote Speaker and Workshop Leader maximizes the value:

  1. Having the same speaker deliver the keynote and lead or facilitate a workshop provides continuity and boosts retention of key messages and best practices.
  2. The keynote followed by a workshop creates an immediate opportunity to put theory into practice. Participants can dive deeper into the learning and development process while the keynote ideas are still fresh.
  3. The workshop setting allows the participants to build a deeper relationship with the speaker thereby increasing their willingness to embrace and implement ideas.

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.

Why Audiences Tune Out

Thursday, May 7th, 2009


I have written articles and best practices on how to engage audiences of all sizes. This entry addresses factors that can alienate the audience and cause them to tune out the speaker or presenter.  Whether I am coaching emerging speakers, or watching a more seasoned presenter there are recurring actions which contribute to  audience detachment.Many of these are simply due to lack of preparation. Most people know that being prepared is fundamental to the success of their speech or presentation yet  all too often it is ignored. If you are fortunate to be given a platform to share your ideas then you  have a responsibility to respect the time and attention of the audience.


1. Reading your notes rather than connecting with the audience.  I don’t mean referring, I mean reading. There is a recognizable difference. How can you make a connection if your focus is on your paper?   Reading verbatim is also one of the primary signals that you have not made an effort to learn your material. It also begs the question, ” If you are an expert on the topic, why are you reading?”.

2. Over used and overwritten slides. This is a similar crutch to notes. Instead of actually taking the time to learn the key messages and flow of your content you let the slides do the work for you.  Audience immediately respond to this dependency as weak and uninteresting. Particularly if your slides do not offer compelling and unique visuals. We are all familiar with the term ‘Death by PowerPoint’ – specifically by the bullets!

4. Using larger words when smaller ones will do.  No need to impress the audience with your cleverness. Obviously you are an expert in your field or you would not be invited to speak.  Words that require  a dictionary can be patronizing and off-putting. Be selective, limit technical jargon. Speak conversationally not academically.

5.  Rushing through your content.  Trying to keep up with the rapid pace of the speaker is extremely frustrating. You send the message that you are in a rush and want the experience to be over with ASAP.   It also appears that you really don’t care if the audience is able to keep up with what you are saying.  Audiences shouldn’t have to catch their breath to catch up with the speaker.

6. More bells and whistles than content. Video clips, photos, music can all add dimension and engagement to the presentation if used strategically and sparingly. However, if  used in excess it looks like you have padded your presentation with filler rather than quality content. People are there to hear your ideas not watch a mult-media show.

7. Lack of customization. If you have delivered a presentation you are likely aware of how important it is to  ‘know your audience’.  A little customization goes a long way to making the connection and building credibility. Show the audience that you have cared enough to learn about them and their specific needs and environment.