How is your opening? Is it the same as usual? Is it designed to engage? Three lessons came from my speaking experience this weekend. What can you take away from my experience?
I was fortunate enough to share the stage with some amazing professionals. It was my first time speaking in front of one of my speaking heroes. Now, a little anxiety is always good… but for various reasons, I wasn’t quite myself, and I was more nervous than usual. I’m responsible… I let it get to me. That’s not even the interesting part!
You may have heard me talk about transitions before. But, I’ve rarely mentioned transitioning from the speaker before you, especially if there’s no break. My speech slot was immediately following Sally Hogshead, who has been on the Today Show, NBC, and CBS.
I had never heard of her, but she’s impressive even without her list of clients. She wowed the audience (including me) as she spoke about fascination and persuasion. Near the end of her presentation, she tied-in how her boyfriend “fascinated her” into meeting him. She proudly went to the back of the room and hugged him. Then he said, “I have a question for you.” He walked over to a flip chart and tore off the first page to reveal, “Will you marry me?” She was shocked and awed! The audience jumped to their feet in applause.
Then is was my turn to speak.
There was no break. How do you follow something like that? What would you do? I had a video introduction ready, but there was a snafu, and my computer was not connected.
I knew I couldn’t ignore the proposal. I felt I had to acknowledge it and, since my subject was humor, I tried to think of a way to find the funny in it. In a very excited manner, I got the audience to give her another round of applause. I then jokingly said, “Wow! How brilliant to hire an actor to come in and propose to you to get a standing ovation… That’s genius!” It went over pretty well.
Then I got the video intro started. Since I only had a tight 30 minutes, I launched right into my content. My connection with the audience was good. It wasn’t great. I wasn’t nearly connected as well as I usually am. What happened?
Jeffrey came over later and asked me if I was open to feedback. From a pro like him, of course I’m open to coaching feedback! He said that after my video introduction, I needed to ask questions. He went on to say that I didn’t fully engage the audience.
He was absolutely right. I forgot one of the basic principles that I teach… Engage the audience member’s thoughts immediately. Have you had a ‘duh’ lately? That was a big one. I teach this! We all need to remember the basics, no matter what.
Do you engage the thoughts of the audience within the first 30 seconds? If you open by launching right into a story, do you immediately follow your story with ‘you-focused’ questions?
Here are some important thoughts for you:
1.) If you haven’t made any presentation mistakes lately, you will. Don’t beat yourself up too much or too long. Learn and let go!
2.) Remember the basics. Review them often.
3.) Don’t let speaking in front of a hero mess you up. They are on your team.
4.) Transitions from other speakers are important.
5.) There will always be surprises when presenting.
6.) Most importantly, remember to engage the thoughts of the audience in the first 30 seconds. Get them to think about them. If you start with a story, the same rule applies as soon as you’re finished with that story.
What’s a tough situation you’ve had while giving a presentation?
How did you handle it?
2001 World Champion of Public Speaking
P.S. Sally, CONGRATS! You just beamed with joy!
P.P.S. This is the coolest room set-up I’ve ever seen! (Especially if you use slides in your presentations.) Hear how Jeffrey Gitomer came up with the idea. Click below to play the video:
[youtube width=”450″ height=”278″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkugKvti37o[/youtube]
P.P.P.S. Remember… December 15th (Midnight Pacific Time) is the deadline for the Get More Laughs introductory special! Click here!
Excellent points! What exactly would you have done differently? What questions could you have asked after your intro? Or would you have built more connection around the proposal topic before your video opening? I totally get the nervous-in-front-of-hero part. Ask me how I know. 🙂
Darren, I agree with you. That is GENIUS!!!! I am going to use this trick in my next conference.
I was also wondering what questions could you have asked after your intro to engage the audience?
It would be interesting to know, pls share! 🙂
I thought setting up slides in tthe front and att the back of the room is really simple thing to do, but no one thought about it until Jeffrey Gitomer came up with the idea. Cool
I wasn’t there, but the joke about the actor and the proposal comes across to me as more mean than funny. I am assuming that the proposal was real and the surprise was real, in which case this was a one-time unique event, not some gimmick with which to end every presentation. To get a laugh by suggesting the whole thing was staged just doesn’t seem right to me (unless, in fact, it WAS staged).
I was slated to follow Lance Miller, 2005 WC of Public Speaking in April 2010 at the TM Spring Convention. My first thought was ” who is responsible for this agenda”? . My friends said I did fine but In know more about failure now, I learned how to properly present using a microphone and I learned I am not one who can go from sitting idle ( even watching Lance) to the stage, I need physical transition that brings my body up to speed , because my mind already is in high gear.
I had a chance to test this at an out of town club and it was the first time I understood what it means to connect with the audience, the members were wonderful and it was a meaningful presentation.
It’s hard to think of something witty on the spot with an incidence like that, real or not. Hindsight is 20/20.
If you had that lightning insight, you could have gone to the flip chart and made two columns headed “Y” (Yes) and “N” (No), then asked the audience “Should Sally marry her boyfriend?”. Most likely it would have been a resounding YES, at which time you could say “Sally, the audience has spoken. Go ahead, you have our blessings”. In effect, use the last tool (flip chart) from the previous presenter.
By the way, you did not mention what YOUR talk was about. This might help us quarterback speaking coaches to offer even more poignant suggestions.
Well Darren, I’d have to agree with you that Sally’s proposal and excitement in the room was a tough act to follow and I applaud you for coming up with a quick witted comment to regain the focus of the audience after that. What happened to you was a great reminder of how one can never be too prepared for what could happen in the blink of an eye regardless if it is a presentation, a meeting with a potential client or even at the airport. Your attitude in how to react to those situations will keep you alive. I was in the room when it happened and I loved your presentation!
Thanks for sharing the tips on the video screens as well. It did allow for the speakers to engage with their audience on a personal level and it is something I will propose to others to do as well. You’re terrific.
So once again, Darren reinforces the skill of asking questions in the beginning of a presentation to engage audience to think. A truly basic but effective skill to connect with our audience.