You should be prepared to capitalize on speaking engagements to build a wider network of prospects and to win new clients.
Having an opportunity to speak in front of a highly targeted, interested group of prospects is a very effective form of lead generation. Even if you are speaking for free, the opportunity often times outweighs a fee when it comes to the potential for new business and establishing you and your agency as thought leaders.
But, it amazes me how often these opportunities are wasted due to a lack of preparation and poor speaking skills.
Here are some tips for preparing, practicing and improving upon your next presentation:
Usually if you start well, you’ll finish well.
Simon Sinek, the third most watched Ted Talks presenter of all time, recommends that you don’t talk right away,
A lot of people start talking right away and it’s out of nerves. That communicates a little bit of insecurity and fear. Instead, quietly walk out on stage. Then take a deep breath, find your place, wait a few seconds and begin. It shows the audience you’re totally confident and in charge of the situation.
A poor speaker is afraid of silence. So don’t be afraid to pause, even at the beginning of your presentation. It shows confidence when you take time to gather your thoughts. With confidence, you’ll be able to own the room.
Following this initial pause, begin your presentation using a powerful statement, a compelling question or a riveting story.
The number one rule to remember when presenting: Don’t be boring.
Every agency presentation must be focused on capturing your audience’s ATTENTION and keeping it. It is the presentation rule that matters the most.
Your audience doesn’t need a lot of mundane details. So don’t give them the uninteresting minutia. Decide in advance the two or three main thoughts you want your audience to takeaway from your presentation.
Remember that clarity, brevity and connectivity are keys to winning presentations.
Chris Atherton, an applied cognitive psychologist and a self-described dork of attentionomics, suggests these 7 specific rules of attention:
- People can really only retain about four bits of new, unrelated information — and sometimes not even that many.
- It’s hard to process spoken and written words at the same time. Integrating your spoken words with pictorial slides makes it easier for the brain to process these two streams of information efficiently.
- A story will keep people’s attention because they will want to know what happens next.
- People really like looking at screens. If you’ve ever been in a pub with the TV on and the sound off, you’ll realize that screens are attention-magnets. Screens have become an important element at college and pro sporting arenas.
- Sustaining audience attention requires frequent changes. Unexpectedness is a great tool for acquiring and maintaining people’s attention, as well as changes in your tone of voice, speaking volume, or where you are standing to draw the audience’s attention to a particular point.
- Your audience will tell you when their attention is wandering. It’s a kindness and a courtesy to stay with your audience, and a presenter on auto-pilot is not a pretty sight.
- Chris’s last rule, short is good.
Be prepared to give, not take.
Sure you want to generate new business, but that shouldn’t be your primary motivation. Know your audience ahead of time and put all your focus on ensuring they are the primary beneficiaries of what you have to say. When you help to enrich the lives of your audience, you’ve done all the selling you’ll need to do.
Preview the presentation room ahead of time.
I always ask permission to view where my meeting will be held in advance. I like to be familiar with the sight lines of the audience. If possible, I also test microphone levels and do a quick run through of my presentation to be sure everything is ready to go. It helps build my confidence.
Recently, I was reviewing a banquet hall an hour before presenting, I asked permission to make my presentation from a different spot. The speakers podium, set-up to the left of the stage, wasn’t as engaging as a smaller stage closer to the audience and more in the center of the banquet room.
For agency presentations, I always made a onsite visit in advance and snapped photos of the our meeting space to discuss with the team in advance of the pitch.
Roll with it.
There are always going to be delays, interruptions to your speaking time, problems with the sound, projector or internet connection. Don’t let interruptions throw you. Create some contingency plans. For example, I always have multiple backups of my presentation on a memory-stick, cloud storage, a PDF version, etc. I’m also prepared to give my presentation without any slides if necessary.
You’ll be much more relaxed and confident which will make your presentation a much better experience for both you and your audience. So be who you are in the way that you dress and talk. Use your own style of humor and personal stories. If you are at ease, then your audience will be at ease.
A good presentation is a story.
Your story should have a beginning, a strong middle and an end. Begin by storyboarding your presentation. I like to use Keynote’s Light Table feature and just slides with images to build my presentation story. I create a single sentence description for every idea, concise enough to fit in a 140-character Twitter post.
Know your material.
If you want to appear spontaneous and confident, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Rehearse your entire presentation five to six times out loud. This will help you to remember your material and improve upon so that your presentation will be smooth, natural and relaxed.
Speak with passion.
In every speech I give, my aim is to motivate. If you want to reach your audience, you must have something significant to say, something you are passionate about. Genuine passion will attract attention and attention will lead to action.
Videotape your sessions.
You’ll learn a great deal on how to improve your presentation skills from each experience if you’ll plan in advance to have them taped. You’re usually your own harshest critic and it’s not always a pleasant thing to do, but it pays great dividends.
You’ll also have original video content that can easily be shared through your blog and social media that will have a long shelf-life.
Take the time to talk with audience members afterwards. This creates value for you, for them and often leads to additional speaking engagements and/or new business opportunities.
Additional presentation articles that may be of interest:
- Steve Jobs: 10 Presentation Tactics for Ad Agency New Business
- The 10-20-30 Rule for Keynote Presentations for Ad Agency New Business
- 10 Ad Agency Pitch KILLERS
- Agency Leadership: Can you be a great leader and not be a great presenter?
- How to Build a Powerful Presentation Deck for Ad Agency New Business
- Try Speaking for Ad Agency New Business
- The Best Pitching Guide Book for Agency New Business