Preparing for the Unexpected in Presentations
Hong Kong, Seattle, San Luis Obispo, Houston, Louisville, Kansas City, Chicago – just some of the places I have presented in 2017. Audiences have ranged from 40-180, and venues have varied from your standard Marriott’s and Hilton’s, to a major network TV studio, to a 1960’s era landmark boutique hotel that touts a Krazy Dazy, Caveman, and Sugar and Spice room among its room choices. What are some steps you can take to remove the unpredictability that you can encounter when giving presentations or sales pitches? Below are a few ideas. Let me know if you would like more, and I look forward to hearing your best practices.
Plan for different lengths
Once in a blue moon, everyone is in their seats in time, the event starts on time, and you have the exact amount of time you thought you had. I haven’t seen a blue moon in a while though. If I have a 45 minute presentation, I also prepare what I would do if I only had 30, or just 15. Merely talking faster is not the answer. For a bonus, think about what you would do if the technology wasn’t functioning that day. How might that impact the amount of time you’ll need, and what will you need to do differently? Take a little time to think about it in advance and you will be just as charismatic, relaxed, and effective at getting your message across if you have less time.
Show up early
In sports, the home team usually has an advantage. One of the reasons is their familiarity with the surroundings – how fast the ball moves through the grass, which way the wind blows, what music might be playing during the game. I make sure to show up early to first make sure the technology is working or can be made to work in time. Then I spend some time getting familiar with the space – how will I use the space on and off the stage, what spots I should avoid so that the spotlight doesn’t blind me, and what’s the fastest way out if I forget everything I wanted to say.
Make some friends in the audience
Because you’re early and confirmed the technology and are comfortable with your space, you are able to watch the early birds arrive. Introduce yourself, shake hands, and kiss babies (if anyone brought any). Now you have friends in the audience. When you need to call on someone or make eye contact with someone who is rooting for you, you have your friends in the audience. If you can incorporate something about them in your talk, “I was speaking with Mary earlier and she was talking about the challenges of merging two sales teams”, you’re doing it like the pros.
Picture the audience naked
Don't. Just PRACTICE a lot!