Wednesday, April 14, 2010

SMART Presenters



The following post is chapter 43 in my new leadership and presentation skills book, Leaders in Gear.  Learn more about the book and grab your copy today at


Chapter 43 – SMART Presenters
Big MO - Broken time rules kill presentations.


Smile. This speaks to the fact that your interaction with the audience should be one of "how can I serve you?" View your audience as customers you aim to please, not people you need to control. Don't sacrifice authority and orderliness for this, but this should be your base camp to work from. This also speaks to the truth that your audience will enjoy the process more when you are enjoying the process. Have fun and be in the moment.

Movement. People need to be engaged through movement; physically, mentally and emotionally. Engage them in all three ways by incorporating experiential activities in your presentations. These can range from games to demonstrations to role playing. Make sure you don’t fall in the trap of choosing an activity before you choose your points. Always figure out what it is you want to say or teach first. Also, remember that we don’t learn by doing things. We learn by talking about the things we do. This means your debrief is critical. Begin each activity’s debrief by asking a version of what my speaking peer Bill Cordes asks, “What was this activity designed to teach us?” This gets them thinking critically and connecting the dots on their own. You should also have a short list of other questions, some rhetorical in nature, that will help your audience begin making the connection between the activity and the lesson you are teaching. Reference the Keeping Attention chapter for more tips on making the most of these audience interaction moments. If you need some new leadership activities and exercises, check out my website. You can read more about those leadership teaching/training resources in the PLI Curriculum section of the Appendix.

Attention. Much of group facilitation is attention management. You can encourage attention with your group by being on high-receive yourself, handling disruptions appropriately and in a courteous manner, encourage discussion through asking questions, prompting the audience members to build off of each other's comments and encouraging them to take notes. Attention management can also be improved by setting room expectations. Make sure you post these in the room and help the group stick to them. The following list contains five expectations you should be setting with your audiences:

• Be Alert
• Be Social
• Be Involved
• Be Clean
• Be Nice

Rememorable. You want to help your audience have a rememorable time; something they will want to remember and memories or content they will want and need to revisit often. You can fuel this memory creation by encouraging them to risk boldly, engage fully in group activities, and stay in the meeting room as much as possible. You will also want to use as many visuals in the room as possible. If you have a smaller group (5 – 100), use flipcharts to capture thoughts, reinforce your points, etc. For larger groups, utilize slide shows. Refer to the Powerful Slide Shows chapter for more information on how to do these correctly.

Time. A successful event, meeting, or conference experience has many moving parts. The biggest moving part is time. Here are a few time rules you should follow.

3-Second Rule. People develop a first impression of you in the first three seconds. Many times this is before you even meet them. Be mindful of how you look the moment the audience sees you. Maximize this time by appearing calm, collected and in control. A pleasant demeanor (smiling, eye contact, saying hello, etc.) helps the audience begin to trust you.

30-Second Rule. Listeners either check-in or check-out in the first thirty seconds. Get them engaged quickly – physically, emotionally, socially or intellectually.

5-Minute Rule. People constantly look for meaning and purpose. They need to either find personal meaning in what they are hearing and/or be told something that they can use every five minutes or so. Give them tangible, real ways they can take action on what they are learning or experiencing.

7-Minute Rule. Listeners need a change in how they receive information every seven minutes. This could be listening to the speaker, reflective thought, table discussion, partner discussion, taking notes, seeing something happen, or engaged in an activity that combines many of these. Most boring presenters have low energy, no variety in their body language and totally disregard the seven-minute rule.

90-Minute Rule. When meeting in big groups, listeners need to unplug from the meeting every ninety minutes.

These time rules serve as benchmarks you can use as you are building your presentation’s flow. However, giving presentations can be a messy and unpredictable experience. Things are not always going to go as planned. You need to have a few back-pocket options you can employ if you are left with extra time at the end. These could include an activity, a self-running slide show, a group discussion, etc. Never end your presentation by asking for random questions. You want your ending to be powerful and tight. Nothing kills a great ending faster or more completely than asking for questions and hearing crickets. If you want to have a Q&A period, hand out index cards or note paper at the first of your presentation and ask everyone to write down questions they have as you are going through your talk. Start collecting these during your presentation (on break or while the group is active doing something) and this will help you gauge if there are any questions and how long it might take you to get through them at the end.

The more common time challenge is running out of it. If you start late, aren’t given as much time as you were told or are mid-presentation and can tell you won’t have enough time to finish all your material, make adjustments and do not go over time. Do not go over time. Do not go over time. Do not go over time. Do not go over time. Do not go over time. Did I mention that you should never go over time? When a speaker goes over time, someone is getting upset, annoyed or frustrated over it. Your final points are never as important as their frustration. Take something out. Prioritize your material beforehand and be clear on what absolutely needs to be said and what can be taken out. Going over time is not just about scheduling or sticking to an agenda. When a speaker goes over time, it is an act of selfishness that says, “My material and I are more important than whatever else you had planned.” Never find yourself in this situation.

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