Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Delivering Killer Presentations

Just listened in on a one-hour BlogTalkRadio show that's hosted by Bryan Person, entitled "How to Deliver Killer Presentations at PodCamp."

The guest speaker, Laura Fitton of Pistachio Consulting, generously shared several presentation tips and insights, which I feel are valuable to any presenter, whether or not they intend to speak at a PodCamp.

You can also listen to the online archive at your leisure.

The points that resonated with me were [minutes into the online audio archive]:

  • Interactions can be presentations. Even if you're not a formal speaker, anytime you walk up to someone, and shake their hand, and say hello, that in itself is a presentation. [5:42]
  • Don't stress out like, I've got to be up there, I've got to be like Tony Robbins, and I need to be high energy, and I've got to be a great speaker, and I've got to learn how to speak. All you've got to do is be effective and useful for your audience. [7:38]
  • Don't lose sight of the purpose. You're so anxious to get that information out, you're so anxious about what the other people are thinking of you, that you lose sight of the purpose of the presentation. [8:57]
  • Stop worrying about what you're going to say. Factor that in last. First think: who am I talking to? Take yourself as in-depth as you can about who will be there, why they are there, what they are looking for, and why might they come to the session [9:14]
  • Get to your room early and chat with people as they come in. Ask them what drew them to the session. Ask them what questions they have and what they're looking for [10:07]
  • What result do you want to achieve? There are results in every presentation, even if it's just to get people fired up, or to introduce yourself as a thought leader on a particular point. So figure out the results for your audience [11:50]
  • Thinking about your audience. It's important to prepare for a wide range of audience expectations. So when I'm brainstorming about the audience, I think of a couple of different profiles that I think might be there. [13:22]
  • Communications is 2-way. It's not just you up there speaking. You need to be watching and listening massively. As you present, you pick up cues from the audience: are they with you, are they zoning out, are they talking to each other... [13:40]
  • Make things interactive. You can take a room of 500 people and make it interactive by asking thought questions (where you stop and they think in their heads, and decide, and move forward), or using an 'interact with your neighbor and break into groups' kind of interaction. [16:10]
  • De-personalize the experience of presenting. If someone's leaving (during your presentation) it does not mean you suck. It does not mean you're being ineffective. They might have a meeting with a bigwig. They might have to pee. They might have to eat. That's not something to get too worried about. [17:22]
  • People are shy. That first question is a bit of an ice break that needs to happen. So instead of smiling awkwardly if there's silence, just say: "At this point, I generally get asked..." and then you ask yourself a question, and then you answer it. That gets the Q&A flow going. [20:29]
  • Don't end with Q&A. Have some kind of presentation ending that's very focused on your result that's going to follow the QA. As you get towards the end of your presentation, just say: I'm going to stop now, and hear how this has worked for you, and hear what kinds of questions you have on the topic, and then we'll finish up. Because the kind of energy during Q&A, even if it's going very well, is kind of not what you'd want to end on and it's not result oriented at all. [20:55]
  • Do not confuse the call to action with a call to buy. A call to action is a call to get people to do something physically. Think about the audience result in terms of what they physically do when you stop talking, what they do in the next hours and days, and what they do two weeks from now. That's how you plant really clear seeds. That's the difference between an engaging presentation vs. a presentation that's just a data dump. [25:16]
  • Think of setting up a website around your whole presentation, so people have a place to go to continue the conversation. With blogging software, it's so easy to do. You can set up a Wordpress blog, and have people go there even while you're talking, and you can collect comments and feedback there. It's a nice back channel. [26:50]
  • Don't ambush people with your 30-second pitch. It's great to have, but never launch it pro-actively. People are more receptive if you're listening first. If you address someone else's needs first, they'll have a much better impression of you, and they'll be much more open, and they'll think: that was a nice person, how can I help them? [32:20]
  • The first 30 seconds. Start with the A-ha! The so what? The why do I care? That's a hook to get them interested. In the first 30 seconds with the audience, you have a massive free ride. They're focused, they're listening, they want you to succeed, they're excited about you. Use those 30 seconds. Do something exciting, a bit outrageous, but not too crazy to start out. Keep it short and don't end with "Okay, here's the summary." End with a next step, and make it small and actionable so something might actually happen. [36:05]
  • Think about what you can control in the room. Is it too cold? Try to find a way to get it warmer. If you can't do anything about it, address it early on. Get through the Ah-a first before addressing it, or have someone address it as an administrative thing before you get to the stage. If they are sitting there being anxious about something, they're not listening to you. So to the extent you can address it, name it, that can help with people's preoccupations and anxieties. [41:10]
  • Watching videos of your presentations. The first time, just play it back. Don't be a critic and pick apart anything that's wrong. Just pick 3 things you did really really well and congratulate yourself. People learn from positive reinforcement; they don't learn from negative reinforcement. Ignore what didn't go well. The second time, watch it again but with the volume off and spend more time looking at the body language. If there are things you're doing that really stand out, then you can give yourself corrective feedback. The third time you watch, do it in fast forward. This is how you notice every 3 minutes you touch your left ear. You probably do not know you're doing it. When you watch it in fast forward, that stuff jumps right out. [46:13]
  • Body Language. Walk. Smile. Care. [48:37]
  • The glassy-eyed room. 5 to 7 minutes is the average adult human attention span. Is it just a matter of time and they just need a change of gears to wake back up? If they do, have them do something. Have them ask themselves a question, or get up or shake each other's hands. If it's just not the amount of time, then maybe they're not getting it. You can say: This is a technical topic and I'm used to talking about it with my friends. I'm not sure how you're used to talking about it. Can someone give me a follow-up question that relates to how you do this? Never be afraid to break away from your script. [52:30]
Check out Laura's blog, Great Presentations Mean Business, for more presentation gems.