Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Winning Presentations

When I was asked to speak to a business group recently, my friend and personal branding expert Lilli Cloud helped me prepare my talk.

The most helpful thing she did was videotape and critique my presentation.

It was invaluable to compare my energy level and connection with the audience when I was looking down, with my glasses on, and reading my talk - versus when I took the glasses off, looked up and simply told the stories I had prepared from memory.

The connection I was making while reading was close to nil. It was a completely different situation when I just used the notes occasionally to stay on track. And it really helped when Lilli told me to print out my notes in large, bold type and ditch the reading glasses (duh ....).

The other really useful thing to come out of the videotape exercise was realizing that when I spoke extemporaneously, complete with stumbles and "uhhhh ..."'s, it sounded conversational - in other words, just fine.

In the past when I've given speeches and strayed from the prepared text, I did connect better with the audience, but I would feel myself start to panic when I was at a momentary loss for words. That panic made me speed up (always bad) and lose my rapport because I was so focused on getting finished without another gaffe.

Realizing that momentary pauses and stumbling over a word doesn't sound terrible really freed me up to glance at my notes, while most of the time looking at my listeners, smiling and relating to how they were receiving my words.

In the end, it was a fun experience and I had terrific feedback.

If you have to do some public speaking, please do not take the advice of my fellow BusinessWeek.com columnist Carmine Gallo, who writes today about how to give a catastrophic presentation.

The sad thing is, I think I've seen every one of his 15 no-no's in person at some point. The worst lecture I ever attended, however, started out with technical difficulties (don't they all?) and played out with the speaker reading her entire talk off her BlackBerry.

At first, I thought she was checking her email!

The effect was just dreadful, and made worse because she was representing a well-respected organization, which dropped several notches in my mind after that day, sadly enough.


  1. Terrific post! Great feedback from a media savvy person.

  2. Thanks, Des. I'm not all that "media savvy" compared to some folks, but I have great pals like Lilli (and Paula, and you!) to keep me up to speed.