Friday, May 16, 2008

How to ace your next speaking gig

It seemed to work out pretty well for Sir Isaac Newton, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Stephen Hawking, among many others, so I hope you won't mind me metaphorically standing on the shoulders of giants in presenting this MarSciTechtainment entry. This week, I am returning to one of my favorite thought-leading sources -- Rohit Bhargava -- to share his advice on how to stand out as a conference or tradeshow speaker. His blog entry on this subject provides a more substantial foundation and exploration of the topic, so if this is of interest, I highly recommend you check that out. In the meantime, I hope my spin on his tips will help you stylishly, effectively woo the next crowd you face.

1. Be real. In the forthcoming book entitled NoiseFive from my clients at global creative and brand-engineering agency ATTIK, one of my favorite pieces of hard-earned advice contained therein is this brilliant little pearl of wisdom: Don't try to be something you're not, or it can cost you your business.

2. Keep it simple and focused. Ensure that attendees walk away from your presentation knowing exactly what your point was, do it in a conversational, respectful way, and hit your points in the fewest words necessary. (Period.)

3. Down with bullets. Rajit references Garr Reynolds' Presentation Zen in urging us to use visuals to make points instead of bullet points.

4. Engage the audience. Questioning the audience during your presentation enlists their attention (know what I mean?). Inviting their questions deepens the shared experience. Greeting them afterwards can pay off in ways you'd never imagine. Another simple but effective trick I have picked up is to intentionally scan the faces in the crowd from one side of the room to the other as you speak, so that attendees know you're making an effort to personally communicate with each of them.

5. Before leaping, listen. Rajit builds a strong case for 'talking last' as a panelist. Deftly tying together others' points in making your own is an excellent way to maximize your speaking appearance.