Be The Hit Of Your Next Meeting With These 10 Tips
Via Forbes : This week I reconnected with my great friend Jonathan Sprinkles, the Connection Coach, whom I’ve collaborated with on customer and communication topics before. Today we talked about one of Sprinkle’s favorite topics—presentations, and how to rock your chances for verbal communication in the information overload world. Like Sprinkles, I encounter thousands of entrepreneurs who are full of passion, amazing ideas and off-the-charts intelligence, but struggle to articulate their messages well. Or they communicate well enough, but would like to go further by knowing how to connect with others at their core (and even more importantly, to move them to action). Sound familiar?
Great presentation skill is a lifelong study. But for now consider these 10 tips from Sprinkles program on Presentation Power:
- Get in their heads. So you’ve booked an opportunity to present and now you need to prepare. Whether your audience will be 10 or 10,000, the first secret to remember is that you are there not only to provide information but to deliver an experienprogram on Presentation Powerce too. Do what the EST and Landmark programs teach by preparing to “speak to their listening.” What’s going on in their heads? Bring it into the open by 1) saying something they’re saying—now you have common ground, or 2) saying something they want to say but they can’t (“Let’s put it out there. Most of you feel this monthly meeting is a waste of time. I’d like to change your mind.”), or 3) say something that gets repeated all year long. A catch phrase? A new process? What if you opened your next staff meeting by instructing each person to point at another individual in the room and saying, “You absolutely rock, and here’s why.” Do it four times and perhaps it will become a habit.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare, prepare. Sprinkles shares his own 5 P’s: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. He is right. Scope the facility and the audience’s physical mood. What could go wrong? Pillars, poor acoustics, weary audience and bad moods. Prepare a contingency plan. Here’s a quick example: In the last major presentation I made, presenters stood in front of a black curtain. Yet most of the speakers wore—you guessed it— black (this happens more frequently than not). Thankfully, I’d been advised to wear a lighter color, which made it easier to connect to an audience of hundreds when I appeared on the screen.
Get out of your head. Things will go wrong. Keep your sense of humor and learn to think on your feet. For example, I recently realized too late when referencing an example of bad PR that I’d accidentally put the name of the company that made the mistake on the screen. So I made it into a joke: “Oh my gosh, I’m a communications professional and I just broke my own rule. Can we please edit this out of the video?” I used the gaffe as the chance to make a connection as the audience laughed with me.
- Do your homework before it’s due. Before any critical meeting, submit all materials on time or even ahead of schedule. Also get the contact to reach in the event of emergency. If there’s a delayed flight or an issue, you know who to reach and can offer up a backup plan that’s better than the original, if possible. “You can be forgiven for nearly any mistake if you give people ample time to accomplish a workaround,” Sprinkles says.
Just say it. If the AV doesn’t work, the room is hot, the audience is scanty, make a joke of the circumstance and get it out on the table. Be real, be authentic, but be positive, Sprinkles said. “Somebody thought it would be great to change my role from keynote speaker to rotisserie chicken today,” he once quipped. Again, convert the problem into another chance to connect.
- They won’t hear you until they know you. Sprinkles employs a strategy called “bus stops.” As opposed to beginning a presentation with a never-ending story about you, he stops at strategic points to share a bit about how the creation came about or what inspired his passion. Each time he does so, the bus picks up a few more passengers. He’s shared his personal background in enticing tidbits instead of a floodgate and by doing so is able to connect at a personal level with his audience while keeping the focus on them.
- People buy into you first. Your product is second. Everybody is selling something. But your biggest competitive advantage, Sprinkles maintains, is yourself. Your ability to connect everything you say and do to a bigger purpose and to influence people to action is your secret weapon. People don’t buy based on “best credentials, better information, higher quality.” They buy based on you. So be yourself, but learn to be your best self at all times. “Be on purpose,” he says.
- Don’t judge. (You’ll always be wrong.) You are bound to find yourself presenting to people who are older, younger, smarter, richer, poorer, or whose political views are the polar opposite of your own. (A lifelong “keynote speaker,” Sprinkles has often found himself the youngest person in the room by 20 years, is ethnic, and has been hired to train people in which he was the only person in the room who didn’t have a doctorate.) Don’t run away from these differences, Sprinkles advises, face them head on. Regardless of the demographic, there is a point of connection. Find it.
- Laugh all the way to the bank. Laughter is magic. Observe and learn from others who know how to use humor well. Humorous presenters are more versatile and are better equipped to adapt their presentation and their style on the fly. Speakers can occasionally take humor too far (by using it as a crutch for poor preparation, using too much potty humor or becoming too risqué) but every strong presentation should contain at least a few chuckles.
Ride the roller coaster. A presentation is never a level ride. Even when presenting on a “serious topic” you can learn to include highs and lows, give the audience something to think about, and always leave them with something to talk about afterwards. What inspired you or struck you as you prepared for the presentation? What inspired you to enter your chosen career? How do you intend to make your industry better? These questions can help to make your presentation not only bearable but memorable, too.
This interview contains only a portion of the ideas Sprinkles provided me. True to form, I came away inspired. I will share his additional thoughts in a continuation of this column within the next several weeks. Additional editing for this article was provided by William C. Snapp. Cheryl Snapp Conner is author of the Forbes eBook Beyond PR: Communicate Like a Champ In The Digital World.
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