Listen to yourself
Carmine Gallo, a columnist for BusinessWeek.com, has written a new book, “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience.” The book, which came out last week, has some fantastic tips for anyone who give presentations or makes frequent new business pitches. There is one tip in particular that I think is worth repeating.
It may seem that Jobs gets up on stage and just ad libs to his audience, but in reality he rehearses for hours. He doesn’t cheat and put his script into his presentation slides. He rehearses his cadence and timing. He rehearses his pauses for effect. He even rehearses his body language. In short, he treats his presentations like an actor approaches opening night.
Don’t you wish every presenter did this?
Too often, presenters spend all their time creating a presentation instead of giving equal thought to how they are going to actually present it. Without real-life stories, a way to relate to the message, and an invitation to reflect on what is being shared, a presentation is just words on a screen.
So how can you channel your inner Steve Jobs and develop a rehearsal routine to improve your presentations?
Write it all out first. Create your presentation outline at the same time you develop your presentation. It’s okay to say, “FIND GREAT STORY HERE,” or “ADD PERSONAL ANTECDOTE” and add them later. The point is to start crafting the delivery at the same time as the message.
Practice out loud. After you refine your notes, practice actually saying the words to avoid that stilted, student-speech-class speech. Rehearsing in the car works best for me. I have to think on my feet because I can’t look at my notes and drive at the same time. Of course the drivers next to me think I’m talking to myself, which brings me to my next point…
Be the audience. When I practice, I try to hear myself from my audience’s point of view. Are you talking to students or CEOs? Industry insiders or foreign diplomats? A story that works well with one audience may fall flat when it is delivered to a different kind of audience. The fastest way to lose your audience is to not respect their point of view.
Check your time. Yes, make sure you can fit it all in the time allotted. But also make sure you build in the time for your audience to take notes, ask mental questions and actually think about what you saying.
Really relate. The best presenters are students of popular culture. Chris Brogan is a master of working song lyrics and cultural references into his presentations. This humanizes the presentation. Give your audience something to relate to and they are more inclined to relate to you.
When the time comes to give your speech or presentation, remember that no one can see the man behind the curtain. If you miss a mark or leave out a bullet point, no one will know except you. And that just gives you a reason to practice more for the next time.
Lynn Troung discusses some of Jobs’ other presentation “secrets” over in her book review at WiseBread.com. Take a look. (My link above is not an Amazon affiliate link, but the one in Lynn’s post is.)