If you want to build your profile or showcase your expertise, one of the best ways to do this is by speaking at events or presenting at conferences. However, communicating your message effectively can sometimes be a challenge when you throw in nerves, stage fright, or an ill-prepared set of notes.
However, if you get it right, not only do you have a captive audience who get to see you in action in person, but you can also benefit from:
(a) being featured on the event website, sometimes for months before the event (think of the link love you’ll get if they are a high-profile site).
(b) being promoted to the event’s database of prospects. Even if they don’t end up attending the event, you are potentially being promoted to thousands of people to who you would not otherwise have access.
(c) having your message broadcast through live-tweeting from the event, as well as reviews/summaries of your session in post-event blog posts.
(d) additional exposure if you upload your presentation to Slideshare (where you can showcase the slides from your presentation).
What’s your message?
You might be wondering what in the world you would speak about. Well, for most business owners, the key here is to position yourself as a leader in your industry. If you’re a chiropractor, you might give talks about how to ease back pain. If you’re an accountant, you might talk about legal ways to reduce tax. And if you’re a beauty salon owner, you might discuss the newest strategies for anti-aging without surgery.
If you can impress and inspire someone when you’re on stage, you’re likely to end up with a guaranteed customer.
I’ve attended countless talks and have watched many business owners give presentations. And, I’ll admit, they range from the inspirational to the ridiculous. YOU want to be on the inspirational end of the spectrum.
So how do you ensure this happens?
1. Get rid of your ego
Often, the business owners who need the most help are the ones who think they are great public speakers. Be open to the idea that a presentations coach can improve your delivery far more than you can imagine.
I know because, two years ago, I thought I was halfway decent at public speaking. And it was only after I engaged the services of a presentations coach that I realized just how much room there was for improvement.
Even if you think you don’t need help, move your ego to one side and consider getting professional advice and feedback on your style.
2. It’s all about the stories
Avoid death by PowerPoint and your audience will love you forever. It can be so tempting to fill your PowerPoint slides with graphs, pithy quotes, and an endless series of dot points, but you risk losing your potential customer by boring them to death.
Author and Forbes blogger Shel Israel recently released the book Stellar Presentations. Shel has long been immersed in the world of business and startups. (He co-wrote Naked Conversations with Robert Scoble.) In his latest book, Shel emphasizes the importance of telling stories.
“The core of nearly all my presentations is telling stories that illustrate business points,” Shel writes. “It has been my experience that story-based presentations are infinitely more memorable than PowerPoint-centric talks… Our culture, religion, and national history are based on stories, not bullet points. There are stories with us today that were first told in five minutes time 5,000 years ago. By contrast, I have seen quite a few PowerPoint slides that felt like it took 5,000 years to present and were remembered for less than five minutes.”
The book is short, succinct, and a worthwhile read for any business owner who wants a cheat sheet on how to improve their presentations skills.
3. Wow your audience early
Shel also says that it’s important to pull out the big guns early. He writes: “Get to the ‘wow’ feature first. Then the rest of your talk will be cake. In fact, once you elicit your ‘wow’, some of what you say next may get lost because members of your audience are busy sharing their enthusiasm online.”
Never underestimate the power of what can be shared through social media. At staggered intervals, pull out a key point, and ensure your audience members can Tweet it in less than 140 characters. The more succinct it is, the more it will be shared.
4. Words and pictures
When you are presenting, you want the audience to focus on you. So if you must have slides, ensure they are picture-heavy. Choose images that represent the point you’re making and don’t make your audience read countless bullet points you’ve recycled from a research paper or an Excel-generated graph they need a Ph.D. to understand.
Instead of bombarding your audience with the written word during the presentation, you can offer a free ebook, white paper, or more comprehensive explanation of your topic via a call to action at the end. This gives you an opportunity to garner your audience members’ contact details so you can send them what you’ve promised.
5. Who are you and how do you help people?
I’ve seen way too many presentations where the business owner is so focused on conveying information that they don’t actually ‘set the scene’ by explaining to the audience who they are and why they are an expert on the topic. I heard one business owner say: “But wouldn’t people just read my bio?”
Ummmm, in a word: no. People are busy and you can’t rely on the idea that the audience is going to do their homework. While your presentation is designed to showcase your expertise, it’s also important to ensure that audience members know how you can help them. That is, what you or your business offers.
One great way to showcase this without appearing like you are selling is through your own customer case studies and success stories. Include some of these stories in your presentation and it will help the audience understand what services you offer and how your customers benefit from them. And this is far more effective when it’s done in a harmless and easily digestible form of a story, not a hard-selling series of PowerPoint dot points.
Don’t waste your opportunity because, ultimately, building your profile and getting more exposure will only happen if you craft the right key messages – ones that will showcase your expertise and position you as a leader.
Valerie Khoo is Managing Director of the Sydney Writers’ Centre in Milsons Point, Sydney. As one of Australia’s leading centers for writing training, the center runs short courses to help people write with confidence and improve their business communication skills. Valerie blogs about storytelling and small business at www.ValerieKhoo.com.