Today's post comes from ROAM Communications network partner, Dave Yewman. He is co-founder of Elevator Speech and owner of DASH Consulting and a master media trainer.
Most speakers develop their presentations backwards.
How? They start with slides.
It's not a fatal flaw and it's easily fixed, by starting with the "talk track" -- the words you're going to say.
Presentations or speeches are typically delivered by someone standing up and saying words, right? But most presenters don't stand up and say words when they're practicing. Instead they enter a vast presentation wasteland. They obsess about their slides -- what bullet points make sense, what fonts work, do I have the latest images, can I find good clip art? Then speakers go over and over slides, rationalizing that they already know the material, they're experienced and prominent in their industry.
Then they stand up to speak on the big day with no a second of out loud practice under their belts. And things quickly go south.
No wonder public speaking is statistically the top fear most of us have.
It's time to break the cycle, but it requires a different approach. Three steps:
What happens when you go through this process is you get a sense of what works and what doesn't verbally. If you can't make something work when you're standing up and saying it, then you can change it or cut it -- something you don't find out by adding yet another bullet point to your slide deck.
After you've stood and delivered your speech, or at least the opening 5 minutes, then -- and only then -- do you reach for the laptop and start building slides. But remember this mantra: one thing/one slide. Don't write a short novel on the screen. Use high resolution photos or 90-point numbers or short quotes. Have your talk track drive the presentation. You should control the PowerPoint; the PowerPoint shouldn't control you.
To be clear, this is more work for you. But it's much better for your audience. Because you'll have practiced and refined that presentation so much so that when audience members walk out they can actually remember what you said.
In many ways, following this approach is like being an actor learning lines. British actor Michael Caine was interviewed a few years back and told CBS "I rehearse on my own, and by the time I've come onto a set I have said the line to myself a minimum of 1,000 times."
Yeah, 1,000 times. No wonder it looks so easy and effortless. But it's not, and frankly nothing worthwhile that looks easy really is. Graceful actors, athletes and speakers all practice like crazy -- it just happens behind closed doors and we see only the final draft.
PowerPoint slides aren't inherently evil. They're a tool. But when you're getting ready to present, put them to one side until you've hammered out what you're going to say. In doing so you'll be among the best speakers your audience hears on that, or any other, day.
Let everyone else continue to do it backwards. You do it right.
About Dave Yewman
A friend of Dave’s 11-year-old son Aaron asked, “What does your Dad do?” Aaron thought for a minute, then said, “He teaches people how not to say ‘um.'” That’s a pretty good elevator speech for a presentation coach. Dave likes to think there’s a bit more to presentation coaching than that — but it’s a great place to start. In the past 10+ years Dave’s coached CEOs, professional athletes, tech startup founders, engineers, creative designers and pretty much everyone in between.
Dave Yewman is a strategic communications expert with more than 15 years of experience. A former newspaper reporter and columnist, he speaks regularly to groups about how to use clear, concise, compelling language as a strategic weapon when dealing with reporters, employees, sales prospects, shareholders, and consumers.
Dave lives near Portland, Oregon.
Learn more about Dave and ElevatorSpeech at www.elevatorspeech.com.
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