I am asked quite often about what people should dress like when they’re delivering a message. My answer is always, “I don’t know. What are you trying to communicate?” What your intention is and how you tailor your message for your audience are the more critical components. What do you know about your audience? The more you can find out (and truly, you don’t have any excuses anymore – with all the social media out there you can obtain information about almost anybody), the more relevant you can make your message the better. The more relevant it is, the more likely it is that they will care and not tune you out.
The next time you have to convey an important message to a group, consider these things first.
- Prepare by doing some research about your audience. Are they male or female, or both? How old are they? Where do they live? What’s the culture of the region? Do they have kids? What do they care most about? Figure out your WHO first. Who are you speaking to?
- Create a compelling opening statement that engages your audience of 1 or 100. “Hello, I’m Lynda McNutt Foster and I’m here today to talk about…” (okay, I almost put myself to sleep) is not nearly as good as, “If your organization has high quality leaders, you are 13 times more likely to outperform your competition. If you are not outperforming your competition, I’m about to tell you how to.”
- Tell short stories when you can because people remember a good (again, keep it short) story to illustrate your most important points.
- If you can, create some type of interactivity so that you can get your audience involved in some way. People only remember 5% of a lecture but 75% of what they practice. Get them involved and they are much more likely to remember what you said.
- DO NOT put in too much content! My favorite quote from Mark Twain is, “I’m so sorry, this letter would have been much shorter if I had, had more time.” Easy to remember, clear and focused points engage an audience. Complicated and lengthy bore them to death.
- WATCH a great TED Talk and take notes on what they do and don’t do. Mostly they don’t pace back and forth. They don’t put too much content on a slide. The best use of a slide is finding a great picture to demonstrate a point and not using more than 6 words if you’re giving a keynote speech presentation.
- And the number one thing to remember when giving a presentation is…. Smile and have fun! Show your passion. Be authentic. Audiences don’t want perfection; they want to like and connect with you.
If you are in a leadership position you’ll probably be asked to speak. If you haven’t done it before or haven’t had good results when you have, reach out for coaching. It’s not likely that anyone is going to tell you that you stink. That’s actually good news. It means that no one is going to come up one of your presentations and say, “Hey, Lynda, you bored me to death.” They simply won’t make the change you want to see from them.
A recent client of mine was referred to me because he had a speech to give to a major government entity this month. He’s young and quite brilliant. We spent time discussing how to create and deliver his message so that he can now deliver it to any audience. His intentions are now clear and the level of connection he is making with audiences has increased along with the impact he is making.
It’s smart to reach out to resources that are available to you. When you’re successful, you’ll be glad you did.