I clicked PLAY, and the video started. She said, “Hi, my name is…”
But, I immediately zoned out and started paying attention to her hands. They were doing this weird I’m-trying-to-grab-the-world thing. It was like she was trying to hug a globe but kept missing. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but whatever she was saying, I totally missed. Her obviously over-practiced gestures took my attention.
I’ve heard many gurus talk about how it’s the content that matters. But, oh it’s so much more. How you say it, what you do when you say it and how you show up even before you say it are all things that matter…maybe even more than the content. Well, at least they influence how you receive the content.
So, whether you are getting ready to give a keynote presentation, or leading a meeting, consider:
1. Standing tall – Leaning off to the side, on one leg looks like you’re getting ready to dash out of the room. Rocking back and forth on your heels, toe-tapping, shifting from foot to foot…all actions that show your nerves and also distracting to your audience.
2. Moving purposefully – Stand tall, yes. But, you’re not a tree, so you don’t need to stand in one place. However, zooming back and forth across your speaking area isn’t helpful either. Instead, speak to a specific person or a specific group of people for a few seconds. Then, create a connection with a new cluster of people. Make your point, then, smoothly walk over to establish or re-establish your connection.
3. Knowing your presentation – Yes, you have slides to show some content. But, if all you’re doing is reading from them, then you might as well just give the audience the handout and take your seat. Know where you are in your presentation. You shouldn’t need to stop after every slide to look to see what is on screen. You’re the expert. You’re a pro. So, that awkward silence every time you stop to look at the slides makes it seem like you’re just learning the information.
4. Practicing your speech – Have you seen THAT speech? The one off the cuff, where you just KNEW the speaker didn’t know he was supposed to be the keynote? Don’t be that guy. Practice in front of the mirror. Practice in front of family and friends. You might be talented and able to pull off an impromptu without practice. But, the more you practice, the better you can create structure and understand the parts of your speech which work the best.
5. Maintaining an open body position – I know. It feels weird to have your arms down, so you clasp your hands in front of you. You grab at your wrists. You put your hands in your pocket. You grab at your belt loops. You fiddle with the pointer. Don’t freak out about it. If you allow yourself to be natural, your hands will do a lot of talking. Let them. Encourage them.
6. Making steady eye contact – Shifty eyes, shifty eyes. Watch out for shifty eyes. Have you ever seen those? Worse, have you ever heard the advice to look at the back wall? Terrible advice. You’re the expert. They’ve come to hear you. But, they’ve also come to have a conversation with you. Look at them. Let them know you’re talking to them and you care about the challenge they are facing. For that moment, you are their savior. Connect. Look them in the eye and smile if you need to.
7. Getting clear on your takeaways and actions – What do you want your audience to leave with? What do you want them to do? Everything should lead up to that. If there is no point, then it’s just rambling. What should they do or do differently after an experience with you? Do you want them to think? Do you want them to buy? Do you want them to research? Do you want them to change their minds? You must be clear on this, and then you need to tell them. Otherwise, they’re just guessing.
One important thing to remember is that the audience is on your side until you give them a reason not to be. They’re rooting for you partly because they took time out to see you. Another part of them is rooting for you because many of them are deathly afraid of being in your shoes. So, they are looking for you to reassure them it will be ok when their turn comes.
Do the work, be yourself and trust it will be ok.
Also published on Medium.