Audience-4Last week, I witnessed three separate, incredibly seasoned executives completely miss the mark when delivering their presentations on stage (painful experiences!). It reiterated three critical points for me anytime we get in front of any kind of an audience (room, stage, webinar, podcast, interview, etc.):

  1. Expert First, Speaker Second!
  2. Know & Relate To Your Audience!
  3. Prep, Be Present, Debrief!

Let me take them one at a time. First: you must be able to defend your content, not just regurgitate it! Speak, present, or otherwise discuss topics you actually have some background / experience in. Years ago, as a favor, I delivered a time management session for a friend / client. It was horrible. I had no business being on that stage, although I consider myself fairly proficient in time management, I promised myself “never again!” Since then, I’ve referred multitude of professional speaking colleagues when a current or prospective client calls and what they seek simply isn’t in my area of expertise.

Second: customization of your session must be more than slapping the audiences’ logo on the front slide! Critical that you speak their vernacular, integrate their nomenclature, and utilize examples and stories they can relate to. What you’ve done matters less than what they’re trying to achieve. You can’t depend on them to connect the dots between your unique perspective and their desired outcomes, without risking missed key points!

Third: make time to do your homework (about the audience’s company, industry, key challenges and opportunities), be astute enough to realize if the presentation is going nowhere, STOP, engage them differently and make a course correction. Lastly, schedule a candid debrief with the client to learn how you could improve. Most people create a presentation that they want to give. But you have to be savvy enough to realize that 15-20 min into your stuff, they’re leaving the room or are buried in their smartphones and tablets.

What a fantastic opportunity to stop talking, candidly say, “I think I’m missing the mark here, so why don’t we try something else.” A) they’ll appreciate you not sucking any longer than you did, b) they’ll be relieved that you were savvy enough to get a pulse of your audience instead of keep rambling on, and c) they’ll respect you for knowing the material well enough to go off script! Lastly, critical that you schedule a follow up debrief call with whomever invited you to present. Beyond the kudos on how fantastic you were, get a real candid input on areas for improvement.

The sessions I witnessed last week reiterated that presentation skills can separate a decent executive from a great one. That speaking really is a profession and way too many amateurs get on stages of varying types. And that we all have growing edges when it comes to raising the bar on what and how we present. #NeverStopGrowing!

They’re some great reading material, speaking coaches, and presentation experts out there. Call or email me if I can help refer you to any of them!

Make it a great week.

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