Like many people, I watched Michael Bay’s recent meltdown during a simple presentation and I cringed. The first thought in my head was; “Ohmigod this is hard to watch,” followed closely by “How does this happen?” .
For those of you who have not yet seen it, here you are:
I totally understand nerves. If you’re not nervous in front of a large crowd, you’re not normal. (I’m nervous in front of large groups on a regular basis.) But how do nerves translate into complete meltdown? Obviously, Mr. Bay was completely unprepared for his presentation and the unstructured, opened-ended way it was started.
Therein lies the problem.
So, the tempting answer to; “How do I not melt down in my next high-stakes presentation?” is “PREPARE.” Well, that’s all fine and good, but isn’t that also the answer to EVERY business-related performance question?
Here are three specific and simple things you should do to crush your next presentation.
In any presentation, there is that awkward nanosecond between initial small talk and the start of the actual presentation. It’s often tackled with an “Okay…let’s get started.” Here is where your brain should kick in and recite the first 30 seconds of your talk. Yes, recite. That means memorize it. You know what you need to say, so why leave it to chance? If you have practiced it several times, it will not sound stiff or stilted. It gets the juices flowing, and begins to immediately build credibility with the audience.
Knowing your first 30 seconds also serves to relax you a bit, and it provides the transition that everyone is looking for. And remember, THEY don’t know that you memorized it. It’s difficult to tell whether Mr. Bay memorized the first 30 seconds of his talk beforehand or if he relied on the (failing) teleprompter. I have a feeling it was the latter situation.
After you roll out of your first 30 seconds and into your content, you have to ask yourself; “What is the ‘so what’ and the ‘for example’ of each of my next three clear points? “
The ‘so what’ is the distilled, one sentence of the slide or idea.
The ‘for example’ is the use case, story or testimonial that supports the point.
For example, “This picture of the industry has lots of moving parts, but the headline here is that it’s in decline. This matters because we are chest-deep in it, and if we don’t re-tool, we’re going to get hurt just like XYZ did last year. We don’t want to go down that same path…” Something like that. Tight. Crisp. To-the-point.
If you are comfortable with the ‘so what’ and the ‘for example’ for each of your first three points, you have not earned the right with the audience and they begin to move to your side. If you can encourage the audience to think about how your points apply to their own work, they will a) know why they are there b) what the goals are and c)- most importantly – they will know that this is going to be different! (Clearly stating expectations to your audience is helpful as well.)
Now you are rolling. The audience is relaxed, and you’ve earned the right to be talking to them. Now is the time hit them with a question. And not just any old question. Hit them with a question that shakes them up a bit. By asking a question just a few minutes in, you do several powerful things simultaneously:
- You signal to the audience that this is not going to be the usual, boring, “I’m-going-to-talk-at-you-until-I’m-damn-well-finished” presentation.
- You also gain confidence in their eyes, by showing that you are unafraid to ask a question so early.
- Finally, you turn the tired old “show up and throw up” model on its head by engaging the audience. Even the silent types in the audience appreciate this.
Ask questions that are designed to engage. Even if you are not quite sure what will happen, you will be far better off for having had the guts to engage the audience.
Here are some examples:
- “How do you feel about what I just said?”
- “Do you think I’m overstating this?
- “I see some nodding heads. Do you see this same thing happening?”
These three things breathe life into any size room, from 5 people to 500 people, and taken together, they will enable you to crush your next presentation or talk.
Another Resource on Influence:
Giving a presentation or talk to a large group of your peers has a lot to do with influence. If you need a quick resource, download our ebook How to Communicate with Influence: For Sales Leaders and Pros. )