Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The 23 Rules To Becoming An Excellent Public Speaker

 At our most recent Internet Telephony Conference & Expo in Miami, most of the speakers were loved by the audience. We received a slew of testimonials from conferees; but still, I am not satisfied until our show is 100 percent perfect, and it isn’t there yet. It won’t be perfect until we can change the ways many companies perceive speaking opportunities at trade shows. TMC shows routinely have the most objective speakers by far, because we tell them that if they commercialize, they will not be invited back. Conferees rate speakers, and if they don’t score near-perfect marks, they are disqualified from future events. This, by the way, is not a common industry practice.

You see, there are certain companies that haven’t a clue about what to discuss, and more importantly, what not to discuss in front of an audience. As a result, I decided to prepare a guide, as follows.

    1)Don’t say your company name or refer to your company more than once in a presentation. If you plan to, please don’t speak at any TMC shows. No one wants to hear a commercial. I don’t. I am sure conferees who spend thousands of dollars to be at a show don’t, either. By the way, we all expect you to be using your own products in your company. This is not a new concept; and not only is it not novel, it’s not interesting. Do you think there is a vendor somewhere that will admit they don’t use their own equipment in their own offices?

    2)Don’t use your own company template for a PowerPoint slide. Nobody wants to see your logo more than once. They really don’t. Believe it or not, anyone can log onto the Internet and look at your logo at any time they want. If they have an urge to stare at your logo while you speak, our attendees are very savvy. They will log onto the Web via a PDA and call up your site. If you have your logo on your Web site, you don’t need it on your slides.

    3)Don’t read your presentation, ever. If you read anything, you are a bad speaker. Please know this in advance. Again, 400 people paid an average of $1,700 each to hear you speak. Memorize your presentation or send someone else who can do this for you.

    4)Be funny. Look for jokes and comic approaches, and think of interesting and compelling stories. Download some great graphics or get someone to help you do this. If you don’t try to make the audience laugh at least once, you shouldn’t be on a stage; you should be in the lab and not let out in public with your company’s Polo shirt on.

    5)Don’t wait until the last minute to hand in your presentation to the trade show producer. Ninety-five percent of the people who hand in their presentations late are lousy speakers. We need to see your presentation in advance to make sure you don’t embarrass yourself or us on stage.

    6)You aren’t doing anyone a favor by speaking. If you think you are, you are likely a horrendous speaker. I speak at many non-TMC events myself. This is a privilege, and I always treat it as such. There is always a speaker with your title or better from a larger company who will gladly speak in your place. Show respect for the audience and the trade show producer.

    7)Dress professionally. This shows the audience respect. The audience really does deserve it.

    8)Ask questions of the audience before you begin the presentation. It is impossible to know who is in the room and what level they are at in terms of understanding the topic at hand. If you can tailor your presentation for the audience on-the-fly, it shows you must know your topic intimately well.

    9)Understand why you have been invited to speak. Speaking is not a marketing opportunity, so don’t treat it like one. If you do, you will get lousy feedback from the audience and you will alienate them, as well. Do you understand that these are prospective customers? You have been invited to speak (at least at our events) to educate the audience on a certain topic. You are there to educate objectively. If you can’t do this or you don’t understand what this means, please don’t ever speak at a TMC conference. We hope you speak at a competitive event. The speakers who get the most out of our events, including the best leads, are those who educate most objectively.

    10) If you have a video in your PowerPoint presentation, you are usually a bad speaker. Why? We all know your corporate colors, theme music and look and feel of your television ads. Your videos always look like your TV ads. This is implied commercialism even if your video is otherwise 100 percent objective.