Great presenters deliver much more than audiences expect
Having delivered hundreds of presentations, people often ask me, “Jim, when did you get started as a speaker?” I think it was 1986 and I was serving as the national membership chairman for a large trade association. At the organization’s annual meeting, I was required to step to the podium and deliver my year-end report to what appeared to be a huge audience. I was terrified! The idea that hundreds of people were focused on me had my heart racing and the papers in my hands shaking so much that I was certain they could hear them. Had I fainted, I’m sure my presentation would have been much more memorable than it really was.
I’ve heard that the people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. I expect then that the worst experience would then be delivering a eulogy at a well-attended funeral.
After that awful experience, I decided that I had to work on my public speaking, hoping not to go through such torture again. So, I read every book and article I could lay my hands on. I learned to research my audience, learning about who they are, what they do and what they expect from a speaker. If I could understand their expectations, I could work to fulfill them. Similarly, my company, Brand Acceleration, a marketing communications and public relations firm, works diligently to understand the customers and prospects of our clients in order to effectively communicate with them.
Next, I learned that the development of a solid message outline is crucial to adding structure to my presentations. You can’t just step up to the podium and start rambling. Just as letters, articles and reports follow an outline, so does a well-crafted presentation.
Is it all about ego?
Some believe that public speakers are nothing more than egomaniacal bloviators who just love to hear themselves speak. No doubt, ego is a natural part of the personality of a public speaker. For me, the act of presenting helps me to break through my otherwise shy and introverted shell. I’m sometimes more comfortable in front of an audience of hundreds than face-to-face with an audience of one. Maybe I do have a rather large ego, but I’m a marketer. That’s a natural part of my personality.
Know your subject!
In order to develop a great presentation, a speaker needs to have a deep understanding of his or her subject. Because my company specializes in economic development and AEC (architecture, engineering and construction), I have made a point to dig in and become an expert in marketing for these industries. My passion, and that of the rest of the Brand Acceleration team, is to be a respected resource to our clients. In order to deliver solid counsel I regularly visit with their clients, such as site selection consultants, real estate brokers, facility administrators and c-suite executives, seeking a deeper understanding of their expectations.
Deliver more than expected!
Just as my company strives to deliver more than clients expect, I work hard to deliver more than audiences expect. If, through my presentations, I can help someone to become a better marketer, manager or public servant, then I have achieved my personal goal. Of course, I do enjoy the benefit of being positioned as a brand expert in the economic development and AEC industries, potentially attracting business to my company.
So, if you’ve ever considered public speaking, whether your focus is on key notes, training or motivation, I’d suggest reading everything you can find on the topic and then getting started. Start out by offering your services to small groups, association meetings and anyone who will listen. With experience, your presentation will improve and your confidence will grow.