In the last lesson, we considered the important elements of good speaker etiquette – how to make the conference organiser's life a little easier – and look at some elements of research you should do before you attend the event to stand you in good stead for the day itself.
Just a couple more things that belong in the BEFORE section.
Yes, I know we have spoken already about dates, times, and how long you should speak for. But there is another equally important facet of timing – which can make or break you as a speaker.
I refer here of overrunning your slot.
Nothing upsets an audience and the organisers and the next speaker on after you… more than if you disrespect the time slot.
So don't over run. Ever. Just don't. But you probably will…
More than 95% of the time, occasional speakers report that they had to speed up towards the end because they had too much material. When this happens and they overrun, the audience is no longer taking in the information – which is being rushed at this point. The speaker themselves become more and more flustered, flicking past slides and muttering – there's no time for that one – which disjoints their presentation whilst the audience's toes start to curl. Any gravitas or professionalism the speaker has built up a downward trajectory as the painful minutes flash past, and the speaker compounds the mistake by asking if anyone has any questions. No one has because they are all already 10 minutes into a 20-minute coffee break.
You have just become the enemy, and the potentially positive effect of the presentation is lost with the lingering memory of your ineptitude.
Harsh? Good! It's supposed to be… so I say again NEVER go over time.
I will address a couple of techniques as we continue through this course as to how you can finish within a few seconds of your slot,… but, for now, know this.
Many inexperienced speakers worry how they are going to fill the timeslot they have been given. And it's true, 45 minutes of pure talking amounts to over 7,000 words, which, if typed out, would cover 14 sheets of A4. Sounds a lot. The trouble is, something mysterious happens during the presentation… You are introduced – which takes a couple of your minutes, you find you are not speaking constantly… because there is a natural break between slides or key subjects… you find that you add a couple of ad-libs and comments as new thoughts occur to you. The audience chuckle at your jokes… you ask for a spontaneous show of hands about something. The Q & A (which we'll discuss more later) goes on too long.
Even if – as indeed you should – you practice your talk in front of the mirror and time yourself, the likelihood is that your timing will give you a false reading compared with the live performance.
There is no doubt in my mind, that occasional and non-professional speakers ALWAYS put too much information into their presentations.
There are many, many time thieves when we're on stage. So I give you this rule of thumb. Write Your words to fill two Thirds. This means that, if you have been given a 45-minute slot, develop your presentation as if it were just ½ an hour. If you have 30 minutes for your talk – assume you have 20 minutes... An hour's slot should be thought of as 40 minutes and so on.
This will be a tough one for you to agree with… but I absolutely guarantee you'll be thanking me for making the suggestion of Write your Words to fill Two Thirds. You really don't want to be that speaker who, when speaking to delegates after the event has to keep referring to the lack of time, saying, "It was a shame there wasn't enough time to finish or "I'm sorry that I didn't get through all I wanted to…" It's how you'll be remembered and then quickly forgotten as a speaker.
Ultimately, if you do complete your presentation with a few minutes to spare – no one's going to berate you for giving them 5 extra minutes at the coffee station!
The last thing you need to do before the event doesn't happen until the day itself… but it's a really important thing to do as you arrive at the venue.
Before we get into some tips about your actual performance, there's one last thing you need to do before your talk.
And this happens literally on the day of your talk… what you have to do is… is Make yourself known…
The first bit of advice I'll give you is common sense – but the second part is a lifesaver – and too few non-professional speakers remember to do it.
Firstly, and as you arrive – given that you have been travelling and might need to freshen up in the bathroom, so to speak – remember to check in with the organisers.
There is often a registration desk at the venue – and, with any luck, you will have a badge or lanyard awaiting your arrival. Go claim it… and do wear it so that people can identify you when they meet you.
Then, make it your business to go and eyeball your contact. The person who booked you or the conference organiser… As you might imagine, event organisers are usually relived and delighted that you are on the premises – so relieve them of that element of their stress.
Then, when you get the opportunity to do so, go and make friends with the AV guys.
The AV people… AV stands for Audio Visual. They can usually be found at the back – wearing clack clothes with a diScreet logo of their company. They often have headphones on and are usually sitting in front of an impressive Mac book or array of computer screens.
They are very used to NOT being seen and are a little enigmatic and mysterious. As you approach them, you might think they seem to be muttering to themselves – until you ralise they are miked up to the person on the other side of the room who is diddling with a piece of lighting rig.
Simply introduce yourself and say that you are one of the speakers. Something like "Hi – I am Andy Edwards, I'm the first speaker after lunch today… is there anything you need from me?"
AV engineers tell me that it is so good to have the speakers come and say hello… it allows them to recognise the presenters and match them up with the presentation they have on their computer.
You might find that they quickly call up your presentation and check with you that it's the right one… Personally, I get the name of at least one of them just in case I need their assistance later on.
Depending on the set up they might ask that you come to the back 5 minutes before your talk to be fitted with a microphone.
Some events will have an MC… grandly titled Master of Ceremonies, it is the conference MC's overriding job to see the conference program runs smoothly. The MC will often introduce the speakers and maybe the person who puts questions to the expert panel on stage.
Some MC's are simply the person in charge, the CEO the Chair of the association, or the organiser themselves. Again, identify who this is if you don't already know and introduce yourself.
And now there's only one more essential introduction to make – and that's with your audience… But get someone else to do it… As an element of all the information you supplied to the organisers, one thing I have yet to mention is your introduction. Make the MC's job easier by providing a short and punchy introduction to you and your talk. Ideally, this will have been sent by you days or even weeks ago. However, I always carry a spare copy of my introduction with me and offer it to the MC. I might say, "Did you receive my introduction – if not, I have a copy of it here!"
This is important because it provides your overriding credentials and sets up your talk accurately, succinctly, and professionally.
So your task for THIS lecture is to write a great introduction for yourself. Keep it short – so that it takes no more than 30 seconds to deliver…
Understand that a good introduction is essential – and could even be considered as part of your talk – albeit spoken by someone else. With someone else introducing you, you will be able to kick off your talk, as the polite applause dies down, in the best possible way.
How do you do that? You PUNCH THE AUDIENCE! Which I know sounds rather startling, but PUNCH is an acronym which stands for 5 important words. Find out in lesson 4.