I went to Dreamforce (Salesforce.com’s annual user conference) a couple of years ago, and one thing that stuck with me was the fact that Marc Benioff and team piloted and practiced their presentation in front of several groups of customers in the weeks leading up to the big Dreamforce conference. You could tell. The presentation was smooth and polished.
Have you ever noticed that most people who make things look effortless are the ones who actually put an extraordinary amount of effort into practicing? When someone doesn’t practice, it’s quite uncomfortable for the audience and the presenter. Take a look at this video of Michael Bay from the Transformer franchises as he presents at a product launch. It is difficult to watch. He had technical difficulties, but the bigger takeaway is that he was unprepared. After the fact, he posted an explanation. “Wow! I just embarrassed myself at CES. I rarely lend my name to any products, but this one is just stellar. I got so excited to talk, that I skipped over the Exec VP’s intro line and then the teleprompter got lost. Then the prompter went up and down – then I walked off. I guess live shows aren’t my thing.”
So how should you practice?
Tip #1: Start by watching yourself in a mirror. Lean into your discomfort; this can help you see how others see you. Do you make excessive hand movements or play with your hair or scratch your ear or look up in the air?
Tip #2: Record audio of yourself and listen to the playback. This can help smooth out your presentation and show crutch or filler words (ah, um, so, anyway, yeah). Toastmasters International has a great article on the use of these filler words.
Tip #3: Take a video of yourself and watch the playback. This can be hard to do, especially when you are starting out.
Tip #4: Find family or friends to listen to you give the presentation. Ask them for their honest feedback on making things better.
Tip #5: Join a local Toastmasters International chapter. Most chapters provide gentle and supportive feedback to help you become a better presenter.
Tip #6: Do this over and over and over again. The best presenters practice over and over again while seeking input and feedback.
You can do it! The most useful feedback for you as a presenter is to see and hear yourself in action and to make your presentation better by practicing again and again and again.