Twenty-three cities, thousands of people, more than a million dollars in revenue generated and counting. It had been a crazy year of travel and speaking throughout 2014 for various media companies our software company works with. I had arrived in Raleigh, North Carolina to deliver a speech to the key digital revenue leaders with one of the largest media companies in North America. Not an easy crowd to “wow” say the least. To make matters worse, every one of these people had attended numerous versions of my presentations throughout 2014, so they knew all my moves. It was going to be a challenge to make this presentation memorable, to say the least.
I lamented for weeks on how to craft a presentation that would cut through the clutter and deliver a message that resonated with them. To add to the (already raging) fire, the executive in charge wanted me to create “fear of loss,” and to speak and coach for no less than 90 minutes.
I had made a point during the year to take photos of the various venues and events during these speeches. I was able to use this collateral to remind the team of where we had been and some of the crazy things that had happened. In this age of social media, where everything becomes content, make sure you always do this. It’s not what you do that matters today, it’s what you show people you do that makes someone memorable.
A small fender bender in a rental car, a crazy stalker lady at one of the sessions and pictures of the sales leadership we coached were all excellent material for driving home some of the key ideas of my presentation to these high level leaders. People like to see things they did, so I tried to make the presentation about the team and how they had helped the hundreds of salespeople in the organization. I also incorporated some humour to get their attention. This was risky, based on the crowd, but it turned out to be very memorable. In fact, well placed delivery of humour and anecdotes are the secret sauce to get people to remember your presentation. And you.
Combining a variety of presentation tactics is essential in keeping the crowd engaged. Audio, slides and even handouts are all items I use to heighten engagement. I even go as far as using the classic “hello my name is” tags if I am working with a group for the first time. This group was all known to me, so I made a point in my talk track to mention 60% of the attendees by name and remind them of the things we accomplished together.
I am blessed with flow. I can just make things come together when I speak, but that doesn’t mean preparation is not needed. I have a million things floating around in my head, so making sure I deliver a clear, engaging presentation involves practice—usually in my hotel room before the gig. Running through the delivery and key points I am going to hammer home is essential in delivering an effective presentation. I also have found that recording my presentations and watching them, while an excruciating process for me, usually brings some significant improvement in posture and delivery.
The absolute key is to always, always be evolving. Never stay stagnant and remember that growth comes from outside of your comfort zone. Great speeches don’t just happen, they take hours of preparation and constant evolution to always be improving.