Audience – Magic Key #1

Audience — Woody Allen said that 80% of success is showing up.  With presentations, I believe that 80% of success is meeting your audience’s expectations.  Address their concerns in your presentation and they’ll give you high marks.

Most presenters start off their presentations with an agenda, a list of their company’s accomplishments, or other items that are of little interest to the audience.  In other words, it’s all about the presenter.

Attention levels are highest at the beginning of a presentation.  Start your presentation with a focus on you and you’ve wasted your best chance to connect with your audience!  Here are four common errors that start most presentations — a joke, an agenda, an apology, and a list of the presenter’s accomplishments.

Audiences hope you will meet their expectations and respond to their needs.  Nancy Duarte exhorts, “Realize that you’re not the hero of your presentation. Your audience is the hero of your idea.”   An audience changes everything.  They define your words.  They frame your images.  They set your worth.  The audience is the final judge of your success.   Without an audience, your words become a mere recitation of information, facts and stories.  The audience IS the reason for your appearance.   Perhaps Stephen Soundheim most aptly put it when he said, “When the audience comes in, it changes the temperature of what you’ve written.”

So, how do you attain that of “80% of success” plateau with your presentation?   Meet the expectations of your audience.  Follow the next three steps and you’ll be on your way to a presentation that is audience centered.

1) Know your audience
Find out who they are on as many levels as you possibly can.  Talk to the person who is bringing you in to speak and do the following:

  • Ask about the top concerns of the group.
  • Find out if the group is facing unique challenges.
  • See if anything has recently changed in the lives of your audience.
  • Consider if your audience is at the beginning, middle or end of their life experience, work, school, parenthood, etc.
  • Learn why they are coming to hear you speak.

The more information you have about them the more you can address their concerns.  Use the information to customize your presentation and make it more audience specific.

2) Meet your audience
Every presenter wants to address a friendly audience.  By meeting audience members before you present you’ll be creating a personal connection.  They’ll see you not as “the speaker” but as someone they hope will succeed.  Conversely, meeting people before you take the stage means that when you present you’ll see new friends in the audience.  This can go a long way to putting you at ease and making your presentation more conversational.

  • Meet your audience before taking the stage.  Show up early to meet and mingle with them before your formal presentation.
  • Connect with people on an individual basis.  Ask for their personal feelings about your topic.  Their responses might provide you with some last minute insight into that particular group.
  • Stay late.  Take questions from the audience.  Find out what part of your message meant the most to them.  Their insight is very valuable.

3) Engage your audience
Meeting your audience will go a long way to getting them interested in you as a person.  However, to maintain that interest you must have ways of engaging them throughout your presentation.

There are many effective ways to begin a presentation. “I want to thank the blah, blah, blah for having me here today.” is not one of them.

  • Try a strong statement such as, “You can change your world,” that centers on the audience and gets them thinking.
  • Try a shocking and relevant statistic –“3 out of 4 of you in this room will not have enough money to retire.”
  • Tell an insightful personal story that sets the framework of your presentation.

Not all openings need to be dramatic, but they should center on your message and the interests of your audience.

Another level of audience engagement concerns your body language – feet, eyes, hands and voice.

  • Feet: Engage your audience by having an open stance when presenting.  Be steady and stable.  Don’t pace, but use the space to walk to different points while holding the gaze of one person as you walk towards them.  This requires that you leave the podium.
  • Eyes: Look directly at people.  In a small room, attempt to look at everyone during your presentation.  In a large room, select a few people in different parts of the room and have conversations with them.
  • Hands: Use your hands in a natural way, but with slightly larger and broader movements.  When you move your hands, move them with intent and purpose.
  • Voice: Engage your audience with your voice by using vocal variety.  Pausing and lowering your tone will literally draw an audience closer to you.

Finally, engage your audience with passion.  Be “on” when you present.  An audience will forgive many things if you give them your story, straight from the heart, with passion.  Passion is not the icing on the cake.  It is the cake. This passion does not need to be shown a la Tony Robbins style, but there should be some spark, some magic, to your presence. Passion makes your message come alive and connects you directly with the audience.

Summary:  When presenting, your goal is to reach a point of connection with your audience, instead of remaining on the base plateau of communication.

Recommended reading:  John C. Maxwell’s “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect

Let me know your thoughts.  What methods have you used to connect with your audiences?

Audience is the first part of Charles’ “Three magic keys to successful presentations.”  In upcoming posts, Charles will be discussing the other two “magic keys,’ preparation & practice.

Charles Greene III Presentation Magician

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Cain – A man with a memorable plan, 9-9-9

Herman Cain has an economic plan.  A lot of Americans have heard of his 9-9-9 plan.  Cain’s 9-9-9 plan is the most memorable, and probably the only,  economic plan that Americans could name.  Everyone seems to be talking about it.  Can you name another economic plan of any other candidate?

Yesterday, in Washington, DC, I was fortunate enough to have an interview with the candidate of the Republican party.  In the brief amount of time that I was granted with Mr. Cain I wanted to know why his economic message is so memorable. Candidate Cain told me that people remember his plan because it is “specific and simple.”

This posting is not an endorsement of the man, the plan or the party.  It’s a look at why this one economic proposal is so well known and how you can apply to the lessons learned to your presentations.  Would your presentation message be more memorable if it were–in Cain’s words–“specific and simple?”

It’s common for most presenters to cram too much information into too little space.  This includes the spaces of time and spaces on slides.  All of us have suffered from presenters who went over their allotted time because they had vital information to give us, yet we still didn’t know their main point.  Many have seen slide decks burdened with dozens of bullet points.  Did the volume of points yield more clarity or did they dull our ability to focus on the message?

If you want your presentations remembered, be “specific and simple.” It’s all about the details of focus and editing.

  • Discover and address your audience’s top concerns.
  • Provide clear solutions in plain language.
  • Reinforce your message with strong visual images.
  • Eliminate points (sound, transitions, background) that distract from your message.

Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.  “It may seem difficult to remove items from your slide deck, but from your work of simplification, your audience will gain a sophisticated and more memorable presentation.

Share your “specific and simple” solutions.  How have you made your presentations more memorable?

Next time I’ll talk about “Audience,” the first of the “3 magic keys to successful presentations.”

Charles Greene III Presentation Magician

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Presentation magician at the summit

Most of my professional life has been spent at conferences that dealt with a wide variety of subjects — neo-natal urology to snack vending machines to vintage magic posters.  As a presenter or participant I’ve spent an unimaginable amount of time involved with presentations during 25 years of global convention hopping.  However, nothing prepared for the lessons that I learned and the people that I met at Rick Altman’s Presentation Summit 2011 in Austin, TX.  I was blown away.

The Presentation Summit is the leading users conference for presentation specialists and PowerPoint experts.  Each year the conference draws an international following to a different US city where they share their passion for corporate story telling.

This year’s conference was in my favorite Texas city of Austin.  From Rick’s pre-conference letters to the final educational session, the conference met my expectations and delivered more.  In the first session of the first day I learned things that made the whole trip worth it.  And there was still three more days to go.

To the conference I brought my new program, “Three Magic Keys of Successful Presentations.”  Thanks to sessions and conversations with Dave Paradi, Lisa B. Marshall, Connie Malamed, Lisa B. Marshall, Olivia Mitchell, Nick Morgan, Garr Reynolds and Julie Terberg, the program went to a new level of refinement.

So what items can I pass onto you from my time is Austin?  Here are five.

1 – When presenting, focus on your audience.  It’s always about them.

2 – Frame your presentation with a story.  Pick one of several, “The Journey”, “Love”, “Revenge” or “Stranger in a New Land.”

3 – Have fun while teaching and learning (Thanks, Nigel).

4 – PowerPoint animation can be used for good, but clip art is always evil.

5 – Speak from your heart.  Although nothing substitutes for solid preparation and practice, telling your own story with passion will enliven any presentation.

I learned many things in Austin.  However, the one thing that I appreciated most was Rick Altman’s permission given to all of us that it was okay to fail – as long as we failed forward.  Rick, thank you.  I can’t wait to fail forward at next year’s Presentation Summit in Scottsdale, AZ.

Charles Greene III Presentation Magician

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The power of 3 – Your public speaking APP for better presentations

I’m home.  I’ve just returned from a two week, three-city work tour in Europe, London, Amsterdam (actually, Geleen), and Paris.  In London and Paris I did presentations for two different clients.  In the Netherlands I lead a presentation skills workshop.  I love my job, but it’s always good to be home.

On the flight back I was struck by the many times and various ways that the number 3 came up during the trip.  From using PowerPoint in a large lecture hall to presenting at a trade show to teaching corporate managers how to be better presenters, the number 3 and the concept of thirds was always reappearing.

Over the next few months, probably 3, I’m going share my observations on the power of 3 and how you can to use it to make your presentations more focused and effective.  You’ll see how the power of 3 can be applied to improve your message delivery, your slide deck, your images, your use of technology, and much more.

To get things started here’s a quick one – I call it my presentation APP.  It’s an acronym for Audience, Preparation & Practice.  These are the “3 magic keys to successful presentations.”  Focus on these 3 areas and your next presentation will be better than your last one.  I promise.

Audience:  Focus on your audience’s top 3 concerns.  Learn them and provide answers to those concerns within your presentation, and you’ll be well on your way to meeting your audience’s expectations of a successful presentation.  According to Woody Allen, 80% of success is showing up.  In presenting, I believe that 80% of success is answering your audience’s top 3 questions.

Preparation:  Gather, refine and align.  Gather all of your facts, photos, and stories before you create your slide deck.  Refine your materials to have the fewest words, the strongest points, and the most human stories possible.  After creating your slide deck, make sure that your slides align visually by looking at them in the slide sorter view.  This should leave you with a slide deck that has a clear message with good visual flow.

 Practice:  How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  It’s still true.  Practice.  Practice.  Practice.  Every uber-person in sports(Michael Jordan), performing(Lady Gaga) or presenting(Steve Jobs) knows that practice is an essential key that keeps them at the top of their field.  According to Malcolm Gladwell, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to reach the level of mastery in most areas.  That breaks down to 3 hours of practice every day for a decade.  Yes, that’s a lot of time, but the pay-off is great.

Learning to use the power of 3 can advance your presentation skills in many ways.  And, as learning should never stop, my next stop is Austin, Texas for the Presentation Summit.  I’ll be on the learning side of things, meeting with presentation trainers from all over the world.  How long will I be gone?  That’s right, 3 days.

Charles Greene III Presentation Magician

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4 easy back up options – Preparing for the Fall

This week in Washington, DC we’ve experienced two events that will make the end of this summer quite memorable–a 5.9 earthquake and hurricane Irene.  Those events and an imminent two week trip to Europe (It’s all for work.  Really.) made me think of data loss and recovery.

When the earthquake hit DC, I was on the third floor of my house.  It felt like I was riding the Cyclone at Coney Island.  I went downstairs and told my wife to stand in the doorway and ran into the kitchen to grab my daughter.  Then we headed out of the house.  On the way out I did manage to grab my wallet.  My IPhone was in my pocket, but in the rush I left my MacBook Air on the table.  Okay, I had my precious family with me.  However, if the house had actually caved in, where would I have been from a business standpoint?

Four days later hurricane Irene now knocks at DC’s doorstep as I prepare for the European trip and I ask myself the same general question.  What would happen if my computer gets lost, stolen, or damaged on the trip?  Could I still complete all, most or any of my presentation workshop tasks?  How would I function?

Before the earthquake I was in an okay situation.  Most of my important files were on IDisk, the Apple cloud storage area.  Using Mac address book, Google Mail, and DropBox, I could access to my contacts, e-mail, and other key files via the internet from anywhere.

As for the European trip, the work files will be on the computer as well as on an 8GB thumb drive.  To the cloud storage of ICloud, Dropbox, and Evernote I’ll upload my needed docs, travel plans, slide decks, photos, and PDFs.

On a bigger scale, I need off-site back-up of all of my files, including 160GBs of photos.  Having all of my back-up drives in the same location is not really a credible back-up plan against fire or earthquake damage.  Thus, back to the clouds.

I’m signing up for Carbonite Online storage.  For only $59 a year, they offer unlimited on-line storage that can be accessed from any computer, IPhone, Android or Smart phone.  All new files created or modified are automatically synched, backed-up, and available through any web browser or smart phone as you go.  With ICloud, DropBox, Evernote, and now Carbonite, all of which have mobile apps, I should be covered.  What a deal!

The bottom line is that you have to be prepared for the unexpected. Who knew DC could be rocked by an earthquake?  Fortunately, there are many free and low cost options that make back-up easy.  Here are the sites for the above mentioned services.

  • ICloud (5GBs of free space plus more for photos.)
  • Dropbox (2 GBs of free space.)
  • Carbonite (Unlimited back-up for $59/year.)
  • Evernote (Unlimited, upload 60MB/mo of free space. )

Hey, is that Hurricane Irene at the door?  Gotta go.

Charles Greene III Presentation Magician

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4 insights on successful presentations – Angklung anyone?

Guinness World Record angklung eventAt the invitation of the Indonesian Embassy in Washington, DC, on July 9, 2011, I was one among 5,182 who set a Guinness World Record for the largest angklung ensemble. Never heard of the angklung?  Neither had I until two weeks before the event.

The angklung is a one-note musical instrument that comes from Indonesia.  It consists of two or more movable bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame.  You play the angklung by holding it with one hand at the top and shaking it with the other hand at the bottom. It takes eight differently noted angklungs to play a scale.

To help set the Guinness World Record, the Indonesian Embassy had flown in angklung maestro Daeng Udjo from Jakarta, Indonesia.  He directed the novice, but enthusiastic group by using hand signals.  He demonstrated the hand signals as he taught us how to play a scale.  The final test for us was following his hand signals to play the official song, “We are the World,” to set the world record.

Yes, we did!  An official adjudicator from the Guinness Book of Records watched the performance and then announced that a new World Record for an angklung ensemble had been set*.  She said, “You’re unbelievable.  And to think that you have never played the instrument before.”

Being part of setting a Guinness World Record was an amazing event, but it also provided me with four insights that directly relate to successful presentations.

1) Team effort – You’ll never see a one-man Angklung band.  Playing a song with the Angklung always takes teamwork and cooperation. Our group used a series of 10 differently noted/tuned angklungs.  And, as our Guinness World Record was about number, having a cooperative team of 5,182 was critical.  The best presentation is a team effort between the speaker and the audience.

2) Visuals speed learning – Our angklungs had labels at the base with images of the hand signal assigned to each instrument’s note.  When the director gave the corresponding hand signal, you shook your angklung.  These labels also helped to orient the instrument.  When the sticker was facing you, the Angklung was held correctly.  Visual learning made for faster comprehension of the task.

3) Practice increases confidence – Angklung maestro Daeng Udjo made us rehearse by leading us through playing scales several times.  Then we played a full song several times.  That really gave us a sense of how this was going to work.  Finally, we were introduced to the song we’d play to attain the record, “We are the World.”  We rehearsed the complete song several times before performing it for the record.  With each practice, our confidence improved.

4) Being fully present counts – Because of the nature of the event, most of the participants possessed cameras or video recorders.  All of us were admonished that for the world record attempt to count, no one could be caught videoing and not playing their instrument.  For the five minutes of the attempt, all of us would need to be fully present and engaged in the task at hand, establishing a Guinness World Record.  Being fully present and focused on the task at hand was the only way we could achieve our goal.

* My World Record holder status, like any good presentation, is highly ephemeral.  If 5,182 people can gather to set a world record in Washington, DC, I’d imagine that this record would be topped when/if they attempt this in Jakarta.  Until then, I’ll enjoy my status as a Guinness World Record participant and thrill in the memory of an amazing event.

Charles Greene III Presentation Magician

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