You Have Been Asked to Speak. Now What?
“If you can’t communicate and talk to other people and get across your ideas, you’re giving up your potential.” – Warren Buffet
You have a certain expertise that other people want to know about and then it happens! You are asked to speak to your company’s quarterly business meeting or at your industry’s conference or, even worse, to your daughter’s or son’s 8 th grade class. What do you do? Read on to find out.
Find Out All You Can About Your Audience
In addition to being a speaker, I am also a practicing systems engineer. One of the tenets of systems engineering directly applicable to speaking, is to determine and manage the user’s requirements. In the case of your audience, your job is to determine, to the best of your ability, your audience’s expectations and meet and exceed those expectations.
As a U.S. Air Force officer, for part of my career, I help develop electronic warfare subsystems for our jets to save pilot’s lives. If I and my colleagues did not sufficiently develop and manage these electronic warfare subsystem requirements, it could literally mean a pilot could lose his or her life.
Now, I am not saying not knowing your audience’s is life threatening, but your presentation will be a lot more successful if you find out what your audience expects to hear, satisfy these expectations and exceed them.
How do you do this. There is a myriad of ways. A few follow:
a. Talk to the person who asked you to speak before your presentation. Odds are, they are a member of the organization to whom you will speak. This person will have very pertinent information about your audience. Ask them questions like, “What are the demographics of your audience? What are the “pain points” of audience members? and What is the ideal maximum time for which this audience likes to hear a talk? There are a number of other questions you can ask. You know them. Ask them.
b. Ask permission to contact a few people in your audience well prior to your presentation. Call or e-mail these audience members. Ask them how much they know about your subject. Ask them their opinion on your topic. Ask them what they would like to learn about your topic. The questions are almost endless.
c. Review organization publications. Listen to organization podcasts and view organization videos if these are available. These information outlets usually reflect what your audience is interested in and will give you are good idea as to what their opinions are on your subject.
d. Review talks this audience has experienced before. Ask the person who asked you to talk how these previous topics were received. Find out why they were hits or “bombs.”
So you have discovered your audience’s expectations for your presentation and are designing your presentation to satisfy and exceed these expectations. But, do you have the time to develop a completely new presentation. Of course, not. There is a solution to this – reuse prior presentation material.
Reuse Speaking Material from One of Your Prior Presentations?
Life is short. There is not enough time in your life to develop a completely new presentation every time you are asked to speak. One of the tenets of object-oriented programming is reuse. This type of reuse helps to lower the cost of software, reduce software programming “bugs,” and speed up the programming process. This is done by breaking down the task into subtask modules which the programmer can fit together to complete the current task.
The same principle can be applied to your speaking. Modularize your speaking so you can mix and match modules to produce the first draft of your next presentation in a fraction of the time you would need to produce a completely new presentation. Your time is money. Doing things in less time saves you for other important tasks. It also reduces errors in your presentation because you have already developed the presentation modules before.
Do you have a similar presentation, although not exactly the same topic, in which you can reuse its material? If the topic of your upcoming presentation is Leadership in the Workplace, can you use material from your presentation entitled, Leadership is Learned, Not Inherited. If you have a workshop for adults covering goal setting, can you adapt this to your next presentation teaching goal setting to high schoolers? If you have a talk teaching presentation skills to an HR audience, can you use the same material in showing the dos and don’ts of public speaking to university professors.
See what I mean about reuse. You may tend to recreate what you have already created before. Resist the urge. Your time will be better spent practicing your presentation.
So, you have discovered your audience’s expectations for your presentation, and have discovered the joys of reusing material from your prior presentations.
Even with knowing your audience’s expectations and reusing prior presentation material, there will still be gaps in your presentation. What do you do? Everyone has heard of brainstorming and the application of this group technique is great if you have access to other people. Let’s suppose you don’t. Mind storming is the answer. Although not as effective as brainstorming, mind storming can be a great help when it is 11:00 p.m., you have your presentation tomorrow and you are alone.
Mind storm and Develop Topics Relevant to Your Audience’s Desires
Mind storming comes from Brian Tracy’s Ultimate Goals Program ; the premise is that you state your goal in the form of a question then ‘mind storm’ 20 answers to that question. If you are hunting for ideas for your presentation, this is a great way by yourself to get those golden idea nuggets. From Mind Storming with Brian Tracy follow the below steps:
Step 1. Take out a pen and a blank sheet of paper. Use paper instead of a computer. There is something special about hand writing your answers out with a pen or pencil. It helps to make connections in your brain that would otherwise not form.
Step 2. Write your top goal in the form of a question at the top of the page. Your question should be specific, and time bound, for example, “How can I double my income to $100,000 per year by December 31, 2012?
Step 3. Then write out exactly 20 answers to the question.
Step 4. Do not judge your answers. Do not put any thought as to how practical or possible an answer is. That part comes later. We are trying to get as many ideas out on paper to consider later.
Step 5. Your first 5 to 10 answers will be easy, like work harder, longer, sell more stuff, etc.
Step 6. As you press on, the next 10 answers will be much more difficult. This is where the magic happens, keep going.
Step 7. Once you have 20 answers, then and only then, qualify them.
Step 8. Optionally, choose the best answer and form it into a question and repeat the process again
Step 9. Choose the best answer and get to work on it right away.
Step 10. “Rinse” and repeat the process often.
Use these ideas again with your audiences expectations in mind. If you do, the problem you will have is sifting through all the great ideas you discover, not despairing because you have no ideas.
So, when you are asked to speak, don’t fret. If you discover your audience’s expectations, reuse material from your prior presentations, and use mind storming to fill in the gaps in your presentation, you are well on your way to delivering a dynamic, relevant, and interesting presentation.
Who knows? Your audience might even give you a standing ovation!
“Speakers who talk about what life has taught them never fail to keep the attention of their listeners.” – Dale Carnegie
Looking for professional services to help you significantly increase your influence with your audiences? Contact DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI) at firstname.lastname@example.org or Office – (703) 815-1324 Cell/Text – (703) 509-4424