Pack the House with a Powerful Presentation

A few months before every SIG Summit, I start to think about the presentations and wonder what this Summit’s hot topics will be. Is talent management still top of mind? Have thoughts on governance changed? I look forward to getting a sneak peek at the shifts in the industry, but get even more jazzed to hear from new speakers. A great speaker can make even the most mundane topic interesting, and by contrast, a poor speaker can wreak havoc on a hot topic. Have you ever sat in a session and thought about how quickly you can make a graceful exodus without people noticing? A steady stream of people exiting stage left is a telltale sign that the speaker is not capturing the audience. So as you prepare for the SIG Summit, or any other presentation, keep this “top 10” list in mind:

  • Great speakers don’t need dense presentations. Slides are merely there to prompt you as a speaker and supplement the information you are sharing. Yes-they can be “takeaways” for the audience, but you will better remembered for delivering a powerful and insightful message than you will for providing detailed slides.
  • Personal stories convey meaningful messages. While you don’t want to over-share details from your private life, a funny- or meaningful-story that is relevant to your presentation connects you with the audience and provides context for why your message matters.
  • Not everyone is funny. Many people have heard that starting with a joke or a funny story is a good way to reel in your audience, but not everyone has comedic timing, so this is not a style that suits all speakers well. Know your strengths. If telling a joke isn’t one of them, try a different tactic.
  • Don’t talk about things you really don’t know about. Seems like I’m stating the obvious, right? You’d be surprised at how many people slip in information hoping it adds credence to their presentation. Don’t fall into that trap unless you are prepared for the inevitable question during the Q&A that shows your flaws. There’s a heckler in every crowd-even a business crowd.
  • Make it interactive. When you are covering a topic that others may have experience with, draw on their wisdom. Involving your audience in your presentation adds color and engages them in what you are presenting. An interactive audience is less likely to leave the room during your presentation.
  • Use props. British accents are great, but if one doesn’t come naturally to you, you’ll probably have to rely on something else to charm your audience. If you have a relevant video, photos, or even a quick polling survey, it breaks up your presentation and can make it more interesting.
  • Get physical. Don’t lecture from a podium. Think back to some of your favorite teachers, or some of the best presenters you’ve ever heard. Rarely will that person be someone who stood behind the podium the entire time. It is more likely to be someone who stood at the front of the stage, or even better, walked among the audience.
  • Make eye contact. Look at your audience- and scan the crowd for the people nodding and smiling as you speak. They are the folks that can usually be called on to add color to your presentation or ask a question. If the audience has tent cards in front of them, use their names when you respond to a question.
  • Think before you dress, or for that matter, speak. This may seem like a really ridiculous tip, but if you think about it, I bet you can come up with a speaker whose appearance distracted you so much that you paid little attention to what they said. Or even worse, you can probably recall a presenter who used fillers such as “ummm,” “you know,” “and so” or “ok.” Admit it, you’ve even been guilty of counting how many times someone used a filler phrase. While it may have passed the time, you probably don’t recall what the presentation was about.
  • Practice so you can be large and in charge. Practice in advance. Rehearse your presentation out loud so you can speak eloquently without having to read from notes. Speak up and be engaging! YOU are the subject matter expert in the room and people are there to hear what you have to say, so say it with conviction.
  • Want to pack the room the next time you present? Then knock your audiences’ socks off THIS time. A good speaker can command an audience on ANY topic. So know your audience, know your material, and know that the people in the room WANT you to succeed. Then relax and enjoy presenting!

Sarah Holliman

Chief Marketing Officer