My public speaking teachers had stressed on these rules to be followed religiously to be an effective speaker. Seemingly simple but difficult to practise as I learned the hard way. There are many other rules but these three strike me as key ingredients of a presentation.
Know your Stuff
Know your Audience
Know your Room.
Know your Stuff: You better know your stuff if you want to be taken seriously. Within five to ten minutes of your presentation the audience will sense whether you are faffing around or speaking with authority. Unfortunately, many presenters think they can zap the audience with verbal and non-verbal pyrotechnics and convey little or no meaning. Once the audience get out of their stupor, they will have the inevitable question, ‘what was the speaker trying to say?’
When I say ‘Content is King’, I do not undermine delivery or non-verbals but here’s a rough formula I apply. If it is a speech as in a Toastmasters meeting or a large audience on generic issues, my distribution is content- 50% and delivery- 50%. However for business presentations, I would maintain a 70:30 ratio for content and delivery.
I was sitting in a corporate presentation where a high profile senior VP of the organisation was speaking. There was no flamboyance, his eye contact with the audience could have been better and voice was barely audible and I was ready to sleep through his pitch. But as he started speaking, his knowledge of the subject, grasp of the situation, clear action steps to tide over an imminent crisis peppered with anecdotes about best practices and sound pragmatic game plan made me and the entire audience perk up and the Q&A session after his talk lasted an hour! He was not just a storehouse of knowledge but he had gauged the pulse of the audience and gave them exactly what they wanted. At the risk of sounding repetitive, you BETTER KNOW YOUR STUFF!
This reminds me of the famous burger ad created by Wendy’s targeting their fictional competitors who served big buns with very little beef inside. So, the ladies in the pic asking ‘where’s the beef’ resonated across the USA and attained cult status. The phrase became synonymous with content, substance or stuff that matters.So when you get off the podium, don’t let your audience ask, ‘where’s the beef?’
Know your Audience: A famous breakfast cereal company was holding its annual sales meet to review the pathetic current year performance. The Sales Head thundered, “Who has the best brand visibility in our industry?” The sales executives roared, “WE HAVE!”. He then asked, “Who has the best infrastructure and capacity among our competitors?” “WE DO” was the loud reply. “Who rolls out the best marketing campaigns in the industry?” Again they yelled, “WE, WE and WE!”
“Then WHY AREN’T WE SELLING MORE CEREALS?” There was a prolonged silence. And then a junior sales executive got up and meekly said, “ Maybe the kids don’t like it.” 😜😳
However grandiose your verbals and non- verbals be, if you don’t tailor the content, it will not persuade the audience to buy, endorse or accept your products or ideas. What do you want your audience to do should be your moot question.
It is worthwhile to remember this quote which sums up the essence of ‘Know your Audience’. “When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’
But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip.’”
Know your Room: Now that you’ve prepared and are raring to go, land up at the venue atleast thirty minutes before your slot. And the questions you need to ask are, 1. What is the occasion? 2. Where is the location? 3. What AV facilities do they have?
Occasion– A team meeting, a client presentation, a status update ?
Location: Your office conference room, a meeting room in a hotel or client location?
Facilities: Call them in advance and also land up early to check compatibility of your device with the hall facilities. I make all my presentations through my iPad Pro and used to carry a VGA converter as that was the standard accessory. One day, the client said they only have HDMI cable. I had to mail my slide deck to my host and present it from his laptop. It was quite embarrassing and now I always carry both the converters, chargers and power banks to overcome my crisis. Being there early also helps me to get used to their lavalier or lapel mikes, check the battery levels and have spare batteries and every minute detail that you can think of. Don’t ever forget, especially on such occasions, Murphy’s Law is bound to work with a vengeance, ‘If anything can go wrong, it will!”
Initially it may seem tedious to go through the grind but once it becomes a habit you will be in a much better frame of mind and turn out to be an effective and effervescent presenter!