The highlight of Stuart’s presentation was the end.
Like a successful hostage negotiation, the 15 captives made a dash for the door as soon as they knew it was over.
Not having shown his entire deck of 90 slides, Stuart announced he would email them to everyone just as hostage number 15 darted to freedom.
Days later, attendees (those not on stress leave), would recount the horror, as bullet point after bullet point slowly faded into view. Each bullet closely followed by a reading from Stuart. Skillfully minimizing the distraction of vocal rises and falls, Stuart maintained the same tone of voice throughout.
Like a call to all felines seeking playtime in conference room 12, Stuart’s red laser pointer did figure eights around the screen for a full hour. Pointing at nothing in particular, but ensuring the audience knew what direction they should be looking. Stuart showcased his multi-tasking talents by keeping the red laser bouncing around the screen the one or two times he glanced at the audience.
All was not lost. Bleary-eyed, red-laser-chasing audience members would later comment on Stuart’s masterful impression of a living statue busker. For the full 60 minutes, Stuart did something that takes the raw talent of someone who makes money performing outside shopping malls. He didn’t move an inch, save for his hand twirling in circles with the laser-point to show the audience where the screen was.
The climax of Stuart’s presentation was the graph. At least the spectators assumed it was a graph. The paragraphs of text on the screen alluded to some kind of chart being buried under there somewhere. Peeking out, just below the “This is a Graph” headline, was one lonely blue bar. Other than that, the remainder of the graph was hidden by text which Stuart would read meticulously to his snoring guests.
Due to a 50 megabyte limit on email attachments, Stuart was unable to mail his slide deck to attendees. No one questioned why it hadn’t been sent out.
Stuart’s presentation is not too far from day-to-day business reality. Dull, monotonous, something to escape from.
In your next business presentation, don’t be like Stuart.
Here are 10 things awesome public speakers do differently:
Slides are always the final step when preparing.
Awesome public speakers understand what they are going to say and how they are going to say it long before they create any slides.
This ensures that the slides that are used contain only relevant information and don’t get used as a prompting device as they were in Stuart’s presentation.
Center of attention
Awesome public speakers understand that the audience are there to listen and learn from the speaker.
The audience are not there to read a slide deck (or worse, have it read to them). As such, the speaker knows they should be the center of attention and puts themselves at front and center, using the slide deck as a support tool.
Awesome public speakers know their topic really, really well.
Having a deep knowledge of the topic gives the speaker confidence to talk without needing to memorize lines.
The best speakers understand their audience.
Knowing the audience allows the presenter to tailor, or frame, the discussion to suit the listeners. This helps to engage listeners and drive the key message.
Open with a bang
The best presentations don’t start with Good morning, thank you for being here.
To be awesome, start with a surprise, a hook, or a rhetorical question. This projects confidence and instantly gets attention from the audience.
Awesome speakers move, use gestures, and have an open body position. And all of this body language is natural (ie. not practiced or forced).
Maintaining eye contact with the audience is a key ingredient for epic business presentations.
Eye contact allows speakers to project confidence and credibility, and monitor how their message is being received.
The best speakers are not afraid of mistakes, in fact they welcome them. Handled correctly, mistakes humanize the speaker and give the speaker the opportunity to inject some humor into their talk.
The most engaging talks are those where the speaker tells stories. For aeons humans have learned through stories and so we are wired to pay attention and digest information when it is delivered in story format.
By their nature, the most engaging business presentations prompt a load of questions. The best speakers don’t answer questions unless they are 100% sure they have a satisfactory response. This means clarifying when the question is unclear and deferring the answer if it is going to get complicated.
Don’t be like Stuart… Consider the above 10 things awesome public speakers do differently before you deliver your next business presentation.
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