Early in my consulting career, I noticed some confusion among my clients (no, this is beyond the confusion I managed to induce in that long ago time). The confusion was this: Those who wanted to sharpen their communications edge found the idea complex, believing there was too much to learn. They needed a system that spelled it out in an easy to understand method.
Thus was born The Three Keys to Great Presentations©. These keys set the baseline for improvement as a presenter.
Let’s examine highlights of each of the three keys.
The first is Preparation. Without preparation, all is lost. Legendary comedian W.C. Fields may have best summed up the need for preparation, when he said, “always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake.”
Many speakers fall flat because they forget how far in advance the preparation phase begins. Do you think it begins when you arrive at your venue to speak? When you first set pen to paper or fingers to keyboard? When you get that email asking you to speak at your company’s employee development day?
You need to go back even further than that if you want to think strategically. Chart a course that guides you toward speaking opportunities you want. Even before that phone rings asking you to present, decide which types of speaking invitations you will accept.
Your guidelines should take into account whether this an audience you need or want to reach. Let me give you a personal example. I know in advance that if I receive an invitation to speak before a group of senior public relations executives, I will quickly accept. Why? I collaborate with many public relations agencies; that is an audience I long ago made a conscious decision to target. On the other hand, even an engraved, personalized invitation from the local knitting society will not get me before that organization. That is not part of my target audience (unless my research tells me that a senior communications or public affairs executive loves to knit and is a member of the group).
Once you have decided upon your main message for each individual performance, you need to punch up your wording and avoid dry, sleep-inducing language.
When you speak, do you use gear like microphones, laptops, or projectors? Get acquainted with the equipment to stay away from embarrassing technical snafus.
In addition, you’ll want to find the best way (for you) to diplomatically assume control of your speaking venue—everything from planning your seating arrangement to what you need to check when you arrive onsite.
And always prepare for fielding questions from audience members, from the friendliest softball to the zinger posed by a heckler.
Next time around, we’ll delve into the other keys. Stay tuned.