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Why Memorizing Your Spiel Is Just Not Enough For A Good Presentation

If you’re like most business owners, you’ve seen many presenters at various seminars, workshops and events. And I’m sure you’d agree that these presenters or speakers come into three broad categories:

  1. The WOW! presenters
  2. The okay presenters and the
  3. The ‘I’d-rather-be-at-the-dentist-right-now-than-listening-to-you’ presenters

At some point in your business career there may come a time when YOU are required to speak to a group of people, even if it’s only a 5 minute talk at a networking event. So it’s good for you to be prepared and know some of the things that will help you fall into the first category above rather than the third one!

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail in this post but after hearing a highly respected professional business coach speak (and fall disappointingly into the third category) earlier this week, I thought I’d share what I believe to be his biggest downfall … his inability to read the crowd.

There’s no doubt that this speaker had spent a lot of time preparing his spiel. In fact, he seemed to have memorized every single word – and joke – and I’m sure he spent countless hours rehearsing. While it’s great to prepare your presentation and to practise it, the problem was that he wasn’t reading the audience at all. Or if he was, he had no idea what they were silently telling him nor how to adapt his presentation to remedy the issues at hand.

As I looked around the room I saw the majority of attendees sitting with notepads and pens on their laps … but virtually nobody was writing anything down.

Many were sitting with their arms crossed and in such a way that they were telling him, “We don’t believe you. We’re not sure that we agree with what you’re saying. Show us why we should listen to you, let alone sign up and pay to be coached by you.”

Others were fidgeting, sighing, wriggling or whispering to the person next to them … these people were bored or not interested.

Then he really came unstuck when he asked for some audience participation and he didn’t get it. Although he pushed and pushed for it, the audience didn’t want to participate and the speaker appeared at a total loss as to how to continue.

I don’t think he’d planned for this, yet their participation was crucial to the point he wanted to make. So in pushing a bit more for that audience participation … he snapped and his frustration showed.  I strongly suspect that raising his voice to criticize his audience probably didn’t win him any fans.

Now the thing is, it’s natural to be nervous when speaking in public, especially if you’re very new to it. But this guy promotes himself as a professional speaker with years of experience so I really did expect more.

For the average business owner who needs to do the occasional presentation, I highly recommend you read up on body language and learn how to read your audience. Then have a few strategies up your sleeve as to how you might encourage them to warm to you, show them that you’re credible, get them to participate and so on.

An excellent book for this is The Definitive Book Of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease.

You’ll find that understanding body language can help in your day to day interactions with others too.

And while it’s important that you plan and rehearse what you’re going to say, don’t be so stringent that you can’t be flexible too.