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!