One of my greatest fears since childhood is standing up in front of an audience and talking. Born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, my English is sound, I’ve risen my hands countless times in class, but I still have (had) this fear of speaking to a large crowd on my own. Over past 5 years, I’ve met and listened to countless entrepreneurs, some of whom are today my mentors. Having met and engaged with them have changed the way I approach public speaking.
A few months back, I was invited to speak at the Google Analytics User’s Great Event (GAUGE) in Boston. This became my very first major speaking gig. Leading up to this point, I’ve learned a lot from that peers I have around me. Preparing for this conference was absolutely an enjoyable one. From crafting the presentation slides to getting up on stage – it feels rewarding to have the opportunity to share your knowledge and experience with others.
As some of you know, I’ve spoken at local meetups around the Ottawa area, including the Ottawa WordPress Meetup, Ottawa Web Design/UX/Development Meetup, and the Ottawa Web Marketing Group. I still feel internal presentations like Lunch n Learns are huge accomplishments and great for practice if you’re just starting your speaking journey. But I’ll just say one thing; getting up on a biggest stage didn’t change how I would present / my presentation style. But, it did make me work harder to pull something together that is more awesome than I’ve ever done before.
Whether you are an avid presenter or one starting out, I thought I’d share 5 tips that I think, will make your presentation just that more “kickass”… here we go:
1- Your comfort and readiness is more important than your slides
We all know how fun it is to pick and choose PowerPoint templates, or to look for the best images to go with your slides. Graphs are also troublesome. If you’ve built slide with graphs before, you know what I mean The key to a great presentation is not having perfect slides, but whether You are comfortable with your own material.
Looking back, I remember my coach always telling me “practice makes perfect”. Whether you are on a volleyball court or on a stage in front of 500 people, this principle still applies. So, you better know your game or you’ll get crushed!
Back to the slides… I hear time and time again; if you can present something without any slides, you’re a star! The worst thing that could happen in a presentation, is if someone turns their head to the slides and begins reaching each line and point on that slide! I’ve done that before, and for a long time too. But as I worked on my slides over time, I began to include less text and more visuals. A good exercise would be to go back to your slides, run through them, and for every slide that you have more than 1 sentence and 10 words, redo them. Look at those slides now, and try to speak to your point. There’s less to read now, so I hope you’ve come up with more to talk about without looking at your slides.
This is a great presentation by Jesse Desjardins on You Suck at PowerPoint. Learned a lot here, check it out! (http://www.slideshare.net/jessedee/you-suck-at-powerpoint-2)
2- The first 2 minutes are crucial for you to make a good impression
This one I would tip that my mentor, Alex Langshur, who provided some feedback while I was prepping to go on stage.
Why is the first 2 minutes crucial? It may be the first time that the people in the audience will have listened to you speak. Starting off strong, simply by making a positive impression of yourself, can dictate how well your 45 minute spotlight will go.
I typically will do the following:
- Introduce who I am; name, title, the company that I work for and something (1 item) personal about myself
- Ask a question to the audience along the lines of “so, how many SEOs do we have in the room today?” or “how many of you are experience ninja’s at link building?” just to get a feel of who might be in the room if you are walking in blind. A question is a great kicker to ask because it gets people involved right from the get-go.
- Depending on your time limit and the format, I typically enjoy taking questions along the way. Opening the dialog up allows a 2 way discussion, rather than me puking information with no understanding on whether you’ve consumed it as knowledge. If you’re in the room of 50+ or more, this is hard to do, so I would refrain from doing it and saving the questions to the end.
3 – End your presentation strong
While you always want to the beginning to be memorable, the ending is just as important. When I get to my Q&A slide, and nobody has any questions, I typically will ask a generic question to get people raising their hands or nodding. When you do that, people tend to react.
There’s a fascinating study about “the first follower“. It wasn’t until after my presentation that I heard about it. Derek Sivers on Ted.com talks about “How to start a movement” and he quickly showed in a 2 minute clip how one individual attracted and nurtured one follower, which eventually grow into a tribe. Check out the video if you have 3 minutes, it’s worth it. The concept applies here because you may notice that during your Q&A session, the person to ask a question will tend to break the ice for others, and others people start to put their hands up. Sometimes, you just need a little nudge to get them going. Humans are curious creatures.
4 – Accept feedback from your attendees (positive or constructive)
I haven’t received any negative feedback from the audience where I’ve presented at. High fives and “great job on that presentation, I learned a lot” are great to hear, but even better are those who approach you with additional questions or say something constructive that I would be able to take and massage my presentation abilities later on. Additional questions are worth paying attention to because I’ve had a few people point out things that I may not have included in my slides, and I later think, “AH! Forgot to put it in, will do that next time!”. But, don’t try to cram everything in your slides. Learn to weed out the items that are less important, and add in those that are highly voted on or as you perceive popular and valuable.
5 – Be yourself and have fun
Nobody likes to be lectured. Nobody likes to listen to somebody who is stuck up or cocky because they say they know everything. Even experts, especially in the field of Internet Marketing, will admit that they don’t know everything. But, as consultants, we need to keep our composure and react to those scenarios.
I do believe though, that people are always looking to be entertained. Whether it be a few giggles here and there, or something new that lights up the bulb above their head, do your best to make it fun and engaging. I especially enjoy watching Wil Reynold of SEER Interactive speak (get his full talk from Mozcon). I wish I could have attended his session in person, but hopefully next year I can make it out!
Personal branding has everything to do with being yourself. What are one or two attributes that you want to leave your mark with? For me – it’s young and energetic!
Do you have any personal presentation skills worth mentioning? I would love to hear from you in the comments below! Thanks for stopping by and reading.
Bonus tip – never say “you know” in your presentation!