Keepin’ it real

Last night was the grand finale of the excellent gateway2investment (g2i) programme I have been attending over the past few weeks.

Snagsta was invited to pitch to a group of 50 or so investors at a very swanky venue on the banks of the river Thames called the Deck. (Thanks to Kirsten for the link to such an excellent Funky Venues site).

I used to love presenting to live audiences but developed a weird phobia a couple of years back which really dented my confidence. Coming to terms with that was tough for me; it wasn’t something I ever had to deal with before. After some soul searching I did eventually get myself back on track by experimenting with different presentation styles.

I tried writing everything out in long hand and reading it but that proved too stiff and uncomfortable. Based on the advice of a friend (that reprobate Marcus Spurrell) I then tried memorising it instead. This kind of worked but it still felt a bit too scripted.

I needed to find a style that suited me but I just wasn’t getting it. Phil showed me an amazing clip of Steve Ballmer of Microsoft fame going mental on stage. Bizarrely that really helped.

It seems to me that presenting isn’t really about what you say. It has far more to do with delivering your message in a natural style that fits your personality. Running around the stage screaming al la Steve Ballmer wouldn’t have worked for me but it strangely suited him!

Yesterday I went back to using cards with a few trigger words to help me keep things structured but natural. Although far from word perfect, I was really happy with how it went. If you’d like to check it out you can see the presentation here:

The lesson for me was: be yourself. People are much more likely to connect with someone who is genuine; and it’s also a lot easier than trying to be something you’re not!

Lastly, as always, I will finish with a list. This one comes from the Snagsta site and is entitled “9 Ways to Stand Out As A Conference or Tradeshow Speaker” from marketing guru Rohit Bhargava:

1. Have a simple theme

Speaking is not that much different from messaging a product or brand. You need to go in having a theme for what you will be talking about and a central message you want to leave people with. Focusing on what this message should be to best help you get value out of your appearance (without overtly pitching or being too “salesy”) is a necessity.

2. Fly solo

You can be part of a panel, moderate a panel, or have your own session. If you can pull it off, I highly recommend trying to get your own session. If you can create something memorable and engaging, the value of that appearance can go straight to you without being shared. In perception also, speakers who have their own sessions tend to be looked at by other attendees as the biggest experts.

3. Ditch the bullets, go visual

Before my presentation at SNC, I reread Garr Reynolds great book on presentations called Presentation Zen. I highly recommend picking it up as it has many wonderful lessons on how to create a stronger presentation. Chief among them is to use strong visuals and as little text as possible. And definitely ditch the bullet points.

4. Make your point quickly

Whether you have your own session or are part of a panel, this point is important to remember. Much of the “conversation” on these panels consists of repetition. The less you fall into this trap, the more people will respect and listen to you when you do speak.

5. Ask and take questions

Taking questions while you talk is a great way to involve the audience, and even better is to ask questions to help tailor your presentation. When I started my presentation about talkability at SNC, I asked who already had a social network and who was considering starting one to get a sense of the room. It helped me to tailor my examples and discussion to what would be more useful for the audience.

6. Talk last

Timing is another important element in standing out as a speaker, particularly when you are in a session with others. Speaking last about a point gives you the chance to offer a unique and considered point of view, and also gives you the benefit of hearing other’s points of view first. This is not about having the last word, but about having a chance to distill other’s voices and your own into a short point of view people will remember.

7. Offer to connect

Adding a URL to the end of your presentation or mentioning one in a presentation is one way of offering to connect, but it is self serving. Instead of doing that, I mentioned during my presentation that I love to try out new social networks and would be willing to try any new ones from people in the audience if they sent me an invite. That alone resulted in more than a few follow up emails from people, invites to Linked In, followers on Twitter and several Facebook friend requests.

8. Stick around

The biggest mistake many speakers make is to run out of an event right after they present. We are all busy, and it’s tough to afford to take an entire day out to speak and attend an event. If you need to skip the event, my advice is to skip the part before you speak. Sticking around after you speak is invaluable to give people a chance to connect with you. And if you don’t do it, what’s the point of being at the event anyway?

9. Stay real

The last point on my list of tips for standing out as a speaker has to do with ego. I’ve got one just like most bloggers and speakers out there. The challenge is not to let it get in the way of dealing authentically with people. Everyone has something to offer and whether they are trying to sell you something or are in a position to help you, staying real will pay off in the long term. By the way, related to point #8, nothing helps you stay more real than actually staying to watch another session beside the one you spoke at.

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3 Responses to Keepin’ it real

  1. Jon says:

    Hey Alex,
    Can’t hear the presentation as currently .tn airport terminal internet cafe but you LOOK real confident. Standing next to the podium instead of behind it gets extra marks, and you LOOK like you have a relaxed demeanour! so well done!!

  2. Case says:

    Alex, I remember your presentation about your trip to the North Pole really well and was surprised the confident speaker from that time was nervous about presenting. This was obviously something completely different, certainly the set up was not as relaxed as that of an Asia Circle dinner! Great that you let us check it out on Youtube.

    You did well in the connection part: including Philip’s choice of hairdresser was a good moment. You are right that you must make a connection with your audience. You should therefor never memorise your speech: you will only be thinking about what to say next. Instead, having notes the way you did is much more preferred. The biggest trick is to have a conversation with your audience. I wish I had gotten my hands on you before this speech, I could have given you real good advice. Remember you have a friend at Black Isle (www.black-isle.com), use it to your advantage. Hope your doing well in the fundraising. Case

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    Keepin’ it real | the snagsta blog

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