By Patricia Fripp
If you ever find yourself invited to speak to a group, perhaps you have overlooked a few final details. To guarantee success there are still a few final steps to take before you face your audience and thrill your boss, client, colleagues or meeting planner.
1.Check in early
Arrive early to check out the logistics of the room in which you will be speaking. Is there a platform; where is it? Where will you
be standing when you are introduced? How many steps for you to reach the lectern or center stage? Is the audience close enough to where you will be speaking to build intimacy? Is the light on you instead of the banner or the lectern if you are not standing behind it? Audience research proves if you put the sound up and the lights down the audience thinks they can’t hear!
2. Make friends with the stage
When the room is empty, walk on the stage and “block” your presentation, or plan where you are going to stand and when you are going to move during your speech. You do not want to distract from your message with unnecessary movement. Go through the outline of your talk. Imagine an enthusiastic response. The more time you spend feeling comfortable on stage the more you can relax and focus on the audience. This is what actors call “making friends with the stage.”
3. Take a clock
Make sure you have a clock you can see from a distance. To keep me on track and on time, I travel with a large kitchen clock that I can see from a distance without having to wear glasses. Very few people know how long they have been speaking. If you are including Q & A, have a dramatic close or the speech has a “must-end-by” time. Scheduling this adds to your professionalism.
Do you have your preferred microphone: hand-held, lavaliere, or lectern? Practice talking into it; the proper placing is chin level for a handheld. Ask someone to walk around and check that you can be heard from all parts of the room. Make friends with the audio technicians. Make sure you are on time for your microphone check and thank them for their help when you have finished.
5. Audio visual
If you are using a PowerPoint presentation make sure the equipment is working well. Are your PowerPoint slides in the right sequence? Do you have a remote control to change them? This way you can move around and are not chained to your computer. Remember to turn the slide to black when you are not addressing what is on the screen. Is each slide visible from the back of the room or auditorium? Are the talking points presented as a “build” or “reveal?” Remember, your visuals aids are a tool, not a crutch.
They are there to support you.
6. Connect with the organizer or emcee
Be clear about who will introduce you, and where you will be during their comments. Will you walk on from the wings or up from the floor? Will you shake hands with him or her, or will they exit once you hit the stage and before the applause dies down. I recommend you nod and mouth “Thank you.” If you are speaking at a banquet, check that you will have a clear path to the microphone without tripping over wires, chairs, or diners.
7. Pre-written introduction
In advance, send your pre-written introduction to the person delivering it. Carry another two with you. Have it written in an 18-point, bulleted list. This is easier to read than paragraphs. Be sure your introducer knows how to pronounce your name correctly. It is a good idea to confirm they have the introduction and are comfortable with what is written. Make sure your introducer knows the introduction is prepared in a certain way to set the tone for your presentation.
8. Be your own warm up act
Connect with as many audience members as possible before you speak. When they see you are extending yourself they will return the favor of giving their attention. That only lasts a few minutes so make sure you grab their attention with a great opening.
9. Learn from the experience
Always follow any presentation with an After Action Analysis. Start with asking yourself what you did well. Next, what could be improved? Always record your presentation and listen to what you said. There are three speeches for every one you deliver. The one you planned to give, the speech you actually delivered, and the improved next presentation based on what you did right, would like to do better, and what can be added from what you learned from the experience.
Editor’s note: This article appears in the July 2011 print edition.
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