Great Advice for Successful Presentations

I am preparing several new presentations for a few new clients.  Getting the client is one thing.  Satisfying the client is quite another thing.  How do you know what will work or not?  How do you really get to know what the client expects?  What standard do you have to meet in order for the client to refer or retain your services?

I always “sweat the details” when I give a presentation.  I know that my content is good and I am confident in my delivery and my ability to be flexible in the face of the unforeseen accident.  Question & Answer (Q & A) portions of the presentation do not throw me off balance.  And yet, there is always something unnerving about working with a new client;  delivering my first presentation to this new group.

This morning, I had my “Eureka moment” while re-reading the book, “Present Like a Pro,” by Cyndi Maxey and Kevin O'Connor:

“Your presentation content will only be a part of your success.  Real success in presentations is measured by the effectiveness of your connection with the audience.  This happens only when you know the audience, why you were selected, and the standard for success set by the person who asked you to present.”

This is the key – It is not about you as the presenter. It is all about them (The audience)   And be sure to give them both what they want and what they need.   But most important of all, be sure that you know and deliver exactly what your meeting planner (or the person responsible for hiring / firing you) really wants!

To find out what they really want, you have to ask and often probe to find the answers. 

Here is how I plan to do this for one of my new clients.  I picked up the phone and asked if I could attend the presentation that they have scheduled for this week.  The client was thrilled that I showed this much interest in his program (and his success if I deliver as promised.)  But, the real pay-off will be for me.  I will get a chance to observe – one week prior to my presentation – the facility, the organization and the audience.  This will give me plenty of time to adjust my presentation to best accommodate my client's needs.  It is a huge benefit for me that I have the time and am close enough to drive down for this pre-visit.

All presenters should make every effort possible to get into the room, where they will speak, ahead of time.  Get up on the stage to get a feel for the room.  If possible, test the audio and visual effects; try to get the lights set to presentation level.  This is standard operating procedure.

What the real professional speakers do goes far beyond this:

1) They obtain a copy of the program ahead of time, to see where they fit into the big picture.

2) If they can, they actually attend one of the sessions prior to their own.  This provides many benefits:  the speaker gets a chance to see the stage from the audience's perspective and the audience gets to see that you – the next speaker – really cares about them – you want to know more about them.

3) They ALWAYS attend the cocktail party (even if they don't drink) the night before; they attend the lunch or dinner (even if they don not eat) or any other function that the group holds while they are at the facility.

4) The ALWAYS mingle with the audience prior to going on stage.  They chat with the audience – and check in with the meeting planner – to pick up any last minute “hints” or “tips” that could make or break their presentation.

I highly recommend “Presenting Like  Pro” for anyone who ever has to deliver remarks in public.  It really is a field guide filled with practical information that anyone – regardless of experience – can benefit from.

Even better!  One of the co-authors – Cyndi Maxey – has a great website where she has (in her Press Kit) a Pre-Presentation Client Survey.  She circulates this to her meeting planner ahead of time.  It is a great idea!  And… I plan to adapt this idea and incorporate it into my website too.  Here are just a few of the questions that Cyndi asks (before she makes the presentation):

1) If my presentation succeeds, what key points will the participants walk away with?

2) What is to happen before and after my talk?

3) Who are a few key people to recognize and why?

Terrific!  I really enjoy going to an author's website to find out more details – and this one offers a treasure trove of (valuable) details!

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