A presentation is performance art – meaning that you need both great content and a great delivery to hit the proverbial public speaking home run. Here are nine ways to ensure that you’re covering both aspects of this difficult art and that nothing gets in the way of success.
1.Never Sell from the Stage. The best relationship between speaker and audience is one of trust and authenticity. You can’t achieve that happy state if you’re selling them something. So keep your advice pure and your stage sales-free.
2.Give Credit Freely. I once worked with a speaker who loved to argue with the audience – in order to dominate them. Instead, bring them in, give them credit, don’t suck all the air out of the room by insisting that you get all the credit.
3.Be Ready to Change on Stage. Sometimes a performance demands change in the moment. Things are moving too fast, or too slow. The audience isn’t getting it, or it has questions about a specific issue you didn’t see coming. You have to make a judgment in the moment about how far off script to go. So keep your overall plan, but allow for the occasional detour.
4.Be Present. I once had a client react testily to that advice when I gave it – he said, “Of course I’m present; where else would I be?” But he was only half present. The other half was already on the road to the next gig. The key is being emotionally present – don’t phone in the talk. Show up as if it were the first and last time.
5.Find Your Voice. So often I see speakers show up timidly, only partly bringing their own unique voice to the occasion. Find your voice by writing two unreasonable speeches: the rant, and the “what I love” speech. You don’t necessarily ever need to give them verbatim, but you do need to know where you stand.
6.Pause. Pausing is difficult because those spaces in your presentation seem to last forever (in stage time) and you’re afraid of relinquishing control. But it’s in the spaces that the audience can take to heart what you’ve said, and respond. If you never pause you never give them room to respond.
7.Go for the Big Idea. I’ve said it many times: the only reason to give a speech is to change the world. If you’re going to do all the work and take all the risk of speaking in public, you might as well go for the biggest idea you possibly can.
8.Put the Time in. It’s performance art, remember? That means you need to rehearse. Don’t just think it – your muscle memory of owning the stage is essential for delivering a great presentation. Rehearse.
9.Leave on a High Note. Many speakers not-so-secretly obsess about getting a standing ovation as a sure sign of a successful speech. That is precisely the wrong place to be looking. Instead, find a way to offer the audience a chance to own something, try something, or dream something. We call it ‘giving a speech’ because in the end if the audience doesn’t own what you’ve said you’ve wasted your time. So give it to them by letting them have the ending.
The performance art of presentations has many moving parts. But the opportunity – to change the world – is so huge that it’s worth the effort. Here’s hoping your next speech is a great one.