One of the most common type of questions I am asked, other than how to stop umm and erring, is what if……
What if I make a mistake? What if the audience do not like what I say? What if I do not have all the answers? And the most common of all What if no-one listens?
Despite the variety of what if questions the answer is almost always the same, because the root of the what if question is the same. It is about lack of confidence.
What if I make a mistake? Lack of confidence in your ability to deliver. What if the audience does not like what I say? Lack of confidence in your ability to tailor your message to your audience. What if I do not have the answers? Lack of confidence in your message….
The answer to all of this is prepare. Know what you want to say, who you are saying it to and how you are going to say it. Here are my top 5 pillars for perfect preparation.
All good speeches start with structure. If you look around you will find books upon books with methods of structuring presentations, speeches, pitches etc. They are all with merit but you can just as easy keep it simple. You need to answer two questions: What do you want your audience to learn? And Why? Once you have answered these questions you can pick 2-3 most important points and then for each point know what you are going to say, an example of how this works and how it is relevant to your audience. Then it should end with the punch line or takeaway.
For example, I am giving a talk on networking. What I want the audience to learn is also my take -away; it is important to build confidence over time. Why? I have been asked to help some reticent members join in and by dispelling the myth networking is a shark pool it may help. I may decide the two important points are to build trust with you potential clients by being helpful and building relationships is why we are all there. I may use an example of a time I helped someone after knowing them for a year, for the first point and an example of meeting someone who became a good friend for the second. Now I can write the speech.
- Take Away
All well prepared talks and presentations have a takeaway point. I touched on it above, it is the one thing above all you want your audience to remember about what you have talked about. This serves two purposes. The first is that it makes you memorable, your words impactful and creates a warm fuzzy feeling as you leave. It needs to be simple, short, and indisputable if someone has listened to you. In the example above the audience know I think networking is about relationship building over time as that is what my examples and points talk to. It can be condensed into a single simple sentence. I could even end my speech with a slogan like networking is just getting to know you, to end on a high.
You have put in all this work, so you want people to hear you. Conversely the introduction is best written last when you know what you are going to say. The purpose of the introduction is not so the audience know your name and how you ended up speaking to them, but rather to gain their attention, gain their trust and show you are worthy of listening to. There are several ways to do this including, a clever statement, describe a scenario that shows you understand their problem or desires or the most simple of all, a relevant question. In the example above I could begin by describing a nightmare about the thought of networking, I could recite a slogan from a networking company or a cliché they would be familiar with or I could ask, “Do any of you get sweaty palms at the thought of networking?”
To successfully educate you do not have to be a grand professor in your subject, you simply need to be at the next stage to your audience. So, make sure you revise the basics, and have some examples to go with it. You also need to know what the knowledge of your audience is, and as much as you can about them. This is so you can pick your points to match your audience interests, match your language, register and frames of reference to your audiences, so if you are talking to business students, try to keep it neutral and not sound like a historical romance novel. If you can it is good to know what else is out there in the field, any interesting research or discussions in the media?
I also get asked a lot about what if anyone asks a question I can’t answer. This is simple, take their details and get back to them once you have looked it up. I always am honest and say I would rather check my facts before I comment, if anyone wants to know the answer leave their email on the sheet of paper…. It’s also a great opportunity to connect.
This is what makes something interesting and you may have noticed that there is one in the example I have been using. My premise for that talk is that networking is not about jumping in with your business cards and twisting someone’s elbow until they sign up with you. It is about relationships, support and community, then you don’t need to strong arm anyone to buy your products. This is my stand. It may be interpreted by some as I am a bit soft, but unless I am talking at the institute for steamrolling sales then this will be a small minority and need to be ignored. If you are too neutral, then people will switch off or it will detract from your authority. Be careful though as if you are too steadfast in your stand you may come across like a mini Hitler.
Now you are prepared, you should be able to handle anything thrown at you…. especially if you follow my bonus tip….practice. Then practice and practice some more.
If you would like to know more about how to perfect those presentations then email me email@example.com or book a clarity call and we can find out how I can help you.