Why aren’t more presenters taking off the presentation training wheels?

So it has been suggested that you check your next presentation deck at the door, perhaps in lieu of an interactive style presentation where your audience becomes an integral part of the experience, or maybe you were asked to give a Ted Talk and you just found out they don’t use teleprompters.

Well, don’t panic… at least not quite yet.

In my work with clients I am not only part of the marketing strategy team, I am often asked to drive the experiential aspects of campaigns as well. It was this perspective that gave impetus to this piece.

I talk about the word “authentic” with my clients a lot. Walking the walk and talking the talk of a brand promise is the foundation we build engagement strategies on.

We know that a two-way conversation with customers is what drives the evolution of a brand in Engagement Marketing. Now wouldn’t it be strange to present this concept to an audience without engaging them in a two-way dialogue?

So let’s get back to presentation deck; I am not saying that presentations don’t have their place. But a lot of us are on autopilot. Decks are often finalized at the last second, sometimes simply modified from presentations that have been given hundreds of times. Which if you think about it — sounds an awful lot like the one-way brand communication that gave rise to Engagement Marketing in the first place.

Throughout my career I have worked with celebrities, seasoned corporate executives, politicians and some who had never given a presentation in their lives. They all had one thing in common, however; they could all become better and more engaging speakers. I believe this to be true for all of us.

So what would happen if a seasoned event pro applied the basic concepts of Engagement Marketing to presenting?

Good idea there Chief. If I don’t have a deck everyone will be looking at blank screens.

· Consider using relevant imagery or digital design elements. I work with my clients to select content that will help punctuate key messages

· I ask for outlines well in advance so the technical requirements can be determined and we can begin working on screen content.

· Use comfort monitors (the monitors usually found on the floor below the stage) to view what is on the screens behind you. Please (personal pet peeve) don’t turn your back to the audience and look at the screens. It’s not that we don’t like the look of the back of your head but it makes is seem like something is wrong technically.

· You can also use your comfort monitors to display an outline of your talk to help stay on track.

· Consider using an outline on note cards instead of a script. Memorizing key words is also helpful.

· Take the time to memorize your opening and your close. We know you’re good on the fly but don’t underestimate the importance of your opening and your close.

Okay genius, how do I get input on what I’m going to talk about?

· Use event apps and pre-event marketing communication to solicit commentary on your proposed subject matter.

· During your speech, comments can be fed to the tech team in real time from the audience via some type of audience response systems. Those comments deemed worthy can be fed to your comfort monitors.

o Social media commentary can be used in the same manner.

· Pre-game the audience so they know this is content they can relate to. “So I have heard from a lot of you that….”.

Apparently you’re new. Do you know who I am? Have you seen my schedule? I am too busy for rehearsals.

· Even U2 rehearses. So don’t just look like a Rock star, show up prepared. A good actor knows his lines and hits his marks. This is good advice for speakers too. Make sure you have already rehearsed your presentation to the point where you’re just fine-tuning.

· The rehearsal is not only for you, it’s also for the tech team. I ask my clients to give us ample time to make sure technical tasks are executed flawlessly. This is a 50/50 arrangement. Without you we have nothing to communicate to the audience and without us, no one will see or hear what you have to say. We’re a team!

· I have a relationship with my clients where I can be candid with regard to how they are coming across. Remember that your team has your back and ultimately you want the same thing: an experience that will forever change your audience. This is not the time for thin skin.

I am an executive not a freaking actor.

· If you get nervous, that old adage about imagining your audience in their underwear really does work. Several deep breaths before you go on stage is a good idea too.

· I like to tell my speaking clients, if they’re nervous, they may be too focused on themselves. I suggest they concentrate on the result their presentation will bring for the audience members. Focus on the message, not the messenger. If they believe wholly in what they’re saying, (coming from that authentic place again) the mission becomes more important than their nerves.

· The energy in the room can either work for you or against you. So try to speak from an authentic place (there’s that word again). If you can achieve this, the positive energy in the room will do half the work for you.

· Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself. Matthew Broderick once said of Nathan Lane, that if a set wall fell down in the middle of their performance, Nathan would be in his glory because it would give him an opportunity to adlib. So if something happens, say the lights go out, make a joke about not paying the electric bill, because (I will let you in on a little secret) the audience wants you to succeed; they are rooting for you. If you panic, they will too. If you make a joke, they will laugh with you.

· Time stands still. What seems like an hour on stage is really only a moment. So don’t be afraid to take a pause now and again and let what you’re saying sink in.

· I can’t tell you how many speakers have gone for a coffee before their presentation and then flown through their presentations on a caffeine high, much too fast for anyone to truly comprehend what they were saying.

Look, I get it. You’ve worked hard and deserve the respect your position commands. It may not always be easy to take advice from a guy like me barking strange acronyms into a headset, but think of it this way — the stage is my boardroom, it’s where I have earned respect. So let me help you knock it out of the park. Pick my brain and be open to suggestions. Together we can create a compelling experience that ultimately moves the audience to action.