Yesterday I went to a medical billing program that I put together. The presenter is someone very knowledgeable on her subject, so I figured this was going to work out great.
by Ariel Cruz via Imagekind
Things started out well enough but quickly fell apart. It wasn’t that her knowledge was all that much in question, however. It’s that her presentation wasn’t really focused and sharp.
The problem was that she knew exactly what it was she wanted to get across, but she kept crossing information that was totally confusing me. And because I’m the type of guy who will ask questions when confused, I kept stopping her and making her clarify what she was saying. I was really confused for the first hour, and I’ve been doing this type of thing for almost 30 years.
At the break I had the opportunity to talk to a few people. I mentioned how confused I was and that maybe I was taking everything she was saying literally. Each person responded that they also had been confused and that maybe she should have broken up what she had to say so that each facet had its own time instead of trying to mix messages on the same slides. I had to agree, and felt it was a shame that others were confused as well.
After her part of the presentation her co-worker came to do his presentation. His was a bit more focused, when suddenly his terminology changed. Well, that’s not quite accurate; what he did was start using a word in a much different way than I’ve always heard it used. Me being me, I called him on it, and he wasn’t able to give me a proper answer. I let it go until the lunch break, when I went up to him and explained myself, and then he agreed and said he saw it in a slightly different way depending on the topic. The problem of course is that everyone else in the room saw it the same way I did, so he’d kind of lost his audience for awhile as well.
One of the reasons I always start with an outline whenever I’m asked to give a presentation is because I want to make sure that I get my points covered in the order I want to do them. This was point one on my post last week about giving live presentations. Sharing knowledge with others doesn’t really work when you’re all over the place. And trust me, the people in that room were pretty smart already, yet most of us ended up in a fog.
That’s why whenever I’m doing a tutorial of some kind on this blog I give the step by step processes of what I did. Or whenever I put together a list post I make sure to address each particular point before moving on to the next one, and if it’s a procedural list I make sure it’s in order.
Sometimes when we know stuff it’s hard to contain ourselves when we want to share it with others. We all need to learn how to direct our information so that we inform rather than confuse. At least I got handouts. 🙂
On Tuesday I was one of the speakers/presenters at a local social media conference, a big deal around here. Somewhere between 300 and 400 people showed up, and overall it was a great day.
That’s not me; forgot to get pictures
I have to admit that I went into the thing with some preconceived notions, some of which came true, some of which didn’t. The ones that didn’t were actually pretty cool, the ones that did… well, c’est la vie.
Overall this was a first for me. Every other presentation I’ve ever done, I was an exclusive in that time period. This time I was on at the same time as, I believe, 8 other people. Even with 300 people, and it seems that number went down in the afternoon since that’s when I was on, I was given a relatively small room, which indicated that the people who put it together probably felt I wouldn’t be that big a draw. And I wondered about it myself when I saw all the other topics for the day.
Anyway, I don’t want to tell much more because I might give away one or more of the 5 things I learned about Tuesday’s presentation overall. And I’m not only talking about my presentation, but those I sat in on as well. Without further ado here we go:
1. There is a major importance in outlining a presentation. Basically yesterday I sat through 5 presentations, not counting the one I gave. Four of the five were well scripted and had a nice flow. One of them didn’t, and even though overall the guy wasn’t a bad presenter, anyone who didn’t understand anything about social media going in wouldn’t have understood a single thing when it was over, and it ran long. Outlines make sure what when you’re talking about something you’ll talk about all aspects of it before moving on to the next thing. If you don’t do that you’ll lose your audience. Lucky for me I not only knew something about the topic, but I had candy. lol
2. Even if you were never a Boy Scout, remember the golden rule; Always Be Prepared. I had emailed my presentation ahead of time so I wouldn’t have to take my new laptop with me and have to drag it around all day. About 25 minutes before I started my presentation (I actually messed up and started 10 minutes early), I went to the room I was going to be in and went searching for my presentation; it wasn’t on that laptop. I asked the guy that was handling all the presentations about it and he went to get the flash drive my presentation was on. Well, at least was supposed to be on; it wasn’t there. Luckily, something told me to bring it along with me on my own flash drive, just in case. I’d also printed out the entire presentation, just in case the power went out. Thank goodness!
This one is me
3. Don’t follow the crowd because it’s the crowd. The third presentation I went to only started with 5 people. The guy giving it was a lawyer, and it was on legal issues of social media. It was fabulous; the guy may not have been a great presenter but he was a lawyer, which means he knew how to get in front of people and talk. I actually learned that if you say bad things about someone online that are true, but your intention is to harm them personally rather than complain specifically about a service they’ve done, that might be considered illegal and they can sue you, especially if they haven’t personally harmed you.
The correlation that was used was the Courtney Love case from either last year or two years ago when she went on Twitter and defamed a women, telling all her past business, just because the woman, a designer, had asked her, in private, to pay for some of the items she’d been modeling. To me that was very valuable information, something more people should have been there to hear, instead of going to some things I knew were popular, but I figured many people should have already known about. Yeah, maybe a few people didn’t know about much of it, but I knew a lot of people that came and they should have known already.
4. Never underestimate the power of your topic. I ended up being scheduled for an afternoon presentation after someone else had been moved into my morning spot because he had to catch an afternoon flight. The time I got moved to had 4 presentation I’d have loved to go to myself, with some very popular local people giving them. I talked about business blogging as a social media platform, and two other people had talked about blogging in the morning, so that and the fact that I was in a very small room at the end of a side hallway made me think I’d be lucky to get at least 5 people in the room.
Six minutes before I started the presentation (remember, I started 10 minutes early; oops), there were only 2 people in the room, and I knew one of those people. When I started the room was half full, and I felt better about things. By the time the presentation was actually supposed to start, the room was almost full, and 30 minutes in, from what I was told, there were people pulling up seats from another room and sitting outside where I was giving my presentation listening. That looked and felt great; idiot that I am, I didn’t get any pictures of it. My assumption had been that the popular people would draw all the traffic and I’d only get the hardcore learners. Since I only ended up with two people who knew who I was when I began, the topic must have been stronger than I thought, and the other people must not have been as popular as I thought they were; well, they were popular to me. And I finished right on time!
5. It’s not your friend’s fault if they don’t show up for your presentation. You know, I wondered how many people I knew as friends would even think about coming to my presentation. Only one friend showed up, but by that time I didn’t mind at all, even though I wasn’t expecting too many people to show up at the time. I realized early on that I knew people giving presentations who I wasn’t going to go see, friends or not, because they were on at the same time I wanted to learn about something else. I only got to see one person I knew beforehand give a presentation, and I think he got the luck of the draw for the day, the big room and having it filled. It was also the first presentation of the day after the keynote presentation, and as far as social media goes in this area, he’s definitely well known. You always have to be ready to follow your own path, and if you’re going to do that then you have to allow others to do it as well. Based on how it turned out, I was a pretty happy guy; I even had quotes tweeted!
As I said, I had a blast during the entire day. Of course I didn’t eat much or well, which tells me once again that I need to make sure I eat my own food before trusting others to make the proper food choices. I hope I get to do something again next year, if they do it next year. By the way, on my SEOX Blog, I’ll be breaking down my talk over a few posts starting Friday if you’re interested in what I had to say on the subject.
Most of you know I’ve been doing these workshops and seminars on social media marketing. You might even know I’m now doing another seminar on October 2nd locally; I’ll be creating my “sticky post” about it soon. I’ve had many people come to me and say “I could never stand in front of others and give a presentation.”
I can honestly say that I can see why it would freak people out. One of the issues with blogging is that we all put our thoughts and beliefs out here for the masses, and at some point someone could come along, say something bad about it, and pretty much ruin your day. If that happens in person, it could feel like it’s even worse than blogging.
The fear of public speaking, also known as glossophobia, alternates almost yearly as the biggest fear of most people, only supplanted by death. It’s hard for someone like me to believe that people can actually have that much fear of speaking to others, but I guess it could be because there are way more opportunities to speak than there are to die, morbid as that sounds.
I have never had an issue with public speaking. Even as a kid, I could get in front of a room of other kids and do my thing. I’m not really sure how, since I have my periods of being an introvert, and other periods where I’d just rather be hidden and not have to worry about people looking at me. However, I guess those periods where I have to do what I have to do come out, and after all, how could one want to be a public speaker if one couldn’t figure out how to speak in front of others?
So, what are the basics of the art of public speaking? Here are my 5 basics, some of which I’m assuming you’ll have seen elsewhere, and some of which I hope I’m the first one who’s saying it, but I doubt I am.
1. You need to like what you’re talking about. How come you can tell jokes to a group of your friends at a party? Why is it that every kid in the world can learn song lyrics to music they like yet can’t pass a history test? Because you liked the joke when you heard it, or kids liked the song they were listening to. It’s why many guys can quote some of the most obscure sports stats sometimes. If you like what you’re talking about then it’s an easier thing to deal with.
2. You need to know what you’re talking about. Our new friend Patricia knows a lot about lavender, and I hope you’ve visited her blog. If I asked her to talk about RAC audits (don’t ask) she’d be way out of her league. She’d probably sweat and get really nervous and try to do some research, if she even agreed to talk on it at all, but she’d never get comfortable with the topic. The same goes for me and lavender; I know what it is, I like the smell, and I’ve used the oil, but there’s no way I could ever get up and talk about it. If you know your topic, it becomes easier to talk about it.
3. You need to rehearse what you’re talking about. When I’m going to be giving a presentation, I go into the living room and I rehearse. I go there because my wife has four mirrors on one wall, and that gives me the opportunity to practice looking around the room so that when I’m doing it live I’ll remember to do that same thing. Even when I’ve done the couple of webinars and podcasts that I’ve been asked to do, I’ve rehearsed as if I was giving a live presentation in front of others. Even Zig Ziglar, who’s been giving presentations for more than 40 years, says that he rehearses before each speaking engagement, even if he’s speaking on a topic he’s addressed in the past.
4. You’re allowed to have notes or outlines or anything else you need to help you stay on point. Most of the time when I’m giving long presentations, I will have a powerpoint presentation along with me. When I rehearse I always have an outline to work with to make sure I stay on point. When I’m putting on a relatively short presentation, as I did with my Keys To Leadership seminars, I did them without notes, but because I had rehearsed I know what I was going to talk on and only had to memorize the topics. People who come to watch you give a presentation aren’t looking for perfection all the time; they’ve either come for the knowledge or because they like you as a speaker.
5. Remember that the majority of people who are there to see you are not only there to hear what you have to say, but they’re sitting there amazed at how brave you are because they can’t see themselves standing in front of anyone doing what you’re doing. That’s actually the first thing to try to recognize once you’re close to giving a presentation. The difference between a good and bad presentation often comes down to confidence. If a speaker can project an air of confidence, people will be on their side. No one wants to see any speaker fail, especially if one is interested in the topic. Of course, don’t be so overconfident that you forget why people are there in the first place either.