Final article in the series.
Here we talk about preparation and failures, interaction, recording, handling objections and feedback.
Estimated reading time 12 min
We saw the importance of depth of knowledge, understanding the audience, using a separate user profile, opening files quickly, using the right language, writing a script, using two user contexts, fixing short projector cables and using Zoom.
There is more!
Prevent against potential failures
Many things can go wrong. Despite your preparation. Some are beyond your control.
Here are things which ARE under your control and you should proactively manage them:
Fail Safe Presentations: Best Practices
Record the presentation
Many customers ask if they can record your demo / presentation or training. Whether to allow them is your decision. But if you DO allow them to record, they call for a video camera which is kept on a tripod. This creates low resolution videos.
There are better ways of recording the on-screen presentation. Here I am assuming that you are going to be sitting in one place and demonstrating whatever product you have at hand. In case you want your face to be shown, you can always use a webcam.
Read this article for details:
How to record demos and presentations as videos without using a video camera
Even if the audience / customer does not want the recording, YOU must see it.
I know that it is BEYOND BORING to see your own presentation for hours. But trust me, it is extremely useful. Observe it carefully and find where you are making mistakes, fumbling, confused, too fast or slow, unclear, ambiguous, listen to audience reactions, think about what must be going on in their minds and so on…
Make a list of areas of improvement, new ideas, bad things and act on it.
Here is a different kind of blog post I wrote about what must be going on in the minds of customers when they attend my session.
Office Efficiency Session: What does the audience think?
If you have attended my session, do go through this article and let me know if my interpretation was right or wrong (and in what way).
This is optional but highly recommended. Even if it is a very serious topic, even if you have the Chairman and CEO in front of you, a few lighter moments and tongue-in-cheek humor is absolutely welcome.
Of course this is something which is difficult to inculcate if by nature you are not humorous. In any case, it is a good idea to look at the world with little bit of humor. It makes life much more enjoyable and less stressful for yourself.
If you use humor, the audience relaxes and they open up. They can relate to you as a human being. It also shows your command over the subject in some way.
The most important thing is to use the humor in context. Don’t just tell some random joke. It must be related to the subject and it must deliver some key concept, benefit, explanation. Not just for the fun of it.
Here is an example of an applied joke:
Office Joke: Why is OneNote called OneNote?
Deliver with confidence and authority
I am assuming that you already have the conceptual clarity, requisite depth of knowledge and practical experience. If you have all this, it automatically gives you authority and confidence.
If you fumble or get confused during the presentation, all this expertise is simply not known to the audience. There is no reason to be NOT confident.
Apart from all other routine public speaking fears (which are simply solved by going there and speaking), there is one fear which needs to be addressed.
The fear of relative knowledge: What if the audience knows more than I do?
Good question. If they know more, you acknowledge that and move on. It is unlikely because if they know more than you, why would they attend the session in the first place.
If they do NOT know more than you do, then you have no reason to fear.
What happens is that FEW people in the audience may know more – or may think that they know more. These kind of people are either professional – and they quietly listen till everyone else catches up or they are out to show that they are superior. For the second category you have to tell them that “Dear <>, I know that you are aware of these topics / features. However, I have to explain it to the rest of the audience. So please bear with me.”
Use Microphone if available
Insist on it actually!
Many people have the habit of saying that “I don’t need a microphone. My voice is loud enough”. That is absolutely wrong. Even if you have a loud voice, do NOT speak loudly. That is why there is a microphone and a loudspeaker.
If you do not use them, you become a “loud” speaker
With the microphone you can have more variation in your voice. It does not strain your vocal cords.
Test the microphone. Find the best position. Lapel (collar) microphones are preferred. Hand-held microphones are useless because you are delivering a DEMO. You need both hands to be free to use the keyboard / mouse / stylus. If you are forced to use a hand-held mouse, ask for a stand. If stand is not available, try to keep it in the upper shirt pocket. If you have a jacket, wear it and keep it in the pocket – a more stable option. Try keeping the microphone on the table vertically. Most of them can stand without support. Increase the gain on the control panel (console) so that it can pick up your speech while on the table.
Drink water frequently while speaking. Very important. Speaking for long periods leads to dehydration. Avoid it.
You are not supposed to know everything
It is absolutely ok to say, I am not clear about this or I don’t know the answer to that question. If you have a hunch, say it but clarify that it is an educated guess. Always promise to revert with the answer and keep the promise. Even if you cannot find the answer after researching the topic, informing the customer about that is equally important.
When you answer a query, repeat the question. DO NOT just answer the query. Think about why the person has asked the query. Think of the scenario and related topics. Cover those as well. Give a comprehensive answer – not just a specific answer.
This approach has two benefits. It shows that you have comprehensive knowledge. It also shuts off random people who just want to show off by asking random questions.
Interact with the audience
Audience should feel that you are interested in them. Simplest way is to do a poll. Whatever is the topic you are presenting, some questions can always be asked about it.
Do NOT overdo it. But conduct as many polls as required. Do it at the right time. DO NOT finish all the polling first. Keep track of the results mentally (or write it down).
While poll is being done (simply by raising hands) if the finding is surprising, ask the audience also to look around so that they can get the idea as well. Usually audience is looking at you while raising their hands – not at each other.
I have used this trick – especially with technical audiences – with tremendous impact.
Read this article and use it: How to fail on stage and use it to your advantage
Read the feedback after the session
Make sure feedback is captured. If it is captured on paper, insist on browsing through it immediately after the session. Often the feedback papers disappear with the event manager and you never see the tabulated feedback later. Go through every form and learn from what is written there. Take negative comments positively and improvise continuously.
The objective is to be world class and redefine the benchmarks in whatever you do. Otherwise what is the point!
In spite of all the preparation, if you have the knowledge and the collateral material, it is best to modify the presentation once you get a better idea about the audience. This usually happens in the first few minutes of the presentation. Keep multiple presentation paths ready. Read these articles to understand how to create interactive presentations where you can jump to a specific topic / section of the presentation instantly and on-demand.
Organizing long presentations using SECTIONS
Create interactive presentation in few minutes
Jump to a different topic while presenting
Create short version of a long presentation without copy paste
Even if you deliver essentially the same set of demos over and over again, you should customize them and elevate your level every time. Otherwise repetition is boring and it can lead to complacence.
The best way to improve yourself is to teach whatever you know to someone else. Teach as many people as you can. That way your mind gets cleared to do bigger, better, more innovative things.
I am not saying that you should not capitalize on your knowledge and monetize it. But there are so many things which can still be shared while protecting your IPR. DO IT.
Have a large heart, do a great job of sharing knowledge and then money, fame, success is just a side-effect.