Early in my career, I was asked to give a presentation on behalf of the company (actually, I was elected by default as no one else wanted to do it). I was young and it involved a glorious overnight stay at Motel 6, so why not. The last time I had spoken in public was a 4th grade reading of the Ride of Paul Revere – and to be honest that wasn’t so great, but hey I was 9, cut me some slack.
My presentation was as part of a business panel. I had the concept of the presentation in my head and figured I’d just wing it. (Really, first time speaking as a business professional and I’m gonna wing – smooth move!). My presentation followed a competitor’s whose presentation covered pretty much all the ideas in my head and he had Power Point. I honestly don’t remember what I said, but it wasn’t good. Needless to say I was never asked to speak again on behalf of that company.
I didn’t have a formal presentation, I didn’t practice and I didn’t have a backup plan.
Years and many companies later, I speak publicly and actually enjoy it. How did I get here? Practice and the willingness to speak at the opening of an envelope (for awhile). So I thought I’d share some tips I’ve learned along the way.
Don’t wing it. Seriously, DON”T! – I am subjected to a lot of business presentations and amazed at all the very talented entrepreneurs who are well versed in the field but wing the presentation. Yes, there is a need to be able to speak extemporaneously, but not when you have advanced notice. The result is often a rambling discourse that covers all the bases but the longest 15 minutes your audience will ever have to endure. And as for speaking from the cuff, that is why we have prepared “Elevator Pitches.”
Do you homework – Know your audience. How much do they know about the topic? Why are they here and what do they hope to get. Have several versions geared to different audiences and their knowledge levels.
Stop already – One thing I’ve noticed is many speakers don’t know how to wrap up, so they don’t. Less is More – say what you came to say and wrap it up. Be especially sensitive to time constraints if there are other speakers.
Use visuals – It help illustrates the point and the slides can help keep you on topic.
Have fun – I was at a recent presentation where obviously the speaker was nervous and fixated on getting through the ordeal. She wasn’t having fun, and neither were we.