How To Successfully Deliver Presentations for Community Leaders and Professional Speakers – Drive Satisfaction and Impact at Your Events

Overview: There is no silver bullet when it comes to successfully delivering content at live events and getting great scores. It actually takes a whole bunch of things. The more you do well, the better the score and impact on the audience. A successful presentation is made up of many things.  Some small, some not so small. This paper is designed to be an overview of best practices to help professional speakers as well as people like user group leaders, MVP’s or others that find themselves on stage in front of an audience with little or no experience. If you are new, do not try to do all of these at once. Pick one or two and once you get that down, try another one or two. Eventually, you will look like a pro!

Objectives: This post will present a smorgasbord of things you can do to help hit it out of the park.  We will learn how to increase evaluation scores, customer satisfaction, improve content retention and have more fun for you and your audience.  No you do not have to be a comedian to do this. Increase your scores and more importantly audience satisfaction now and forever.   

  • Be well rested and have your fill of caffeine before you start. Make sure you have enough energy for every member of your audience to take some.
  • Be Prepared – rehearse your material slides and demo’s and know the material inside and out. Do some extra research so you know more than just the level you are delivering. This will make you much more comfortable, knowledgeable and helpful when the questions start flying.
  • Meet your audience, before the event starts, shake some of their hands and ask why they are here and what they hope to learn. Get their name and company. Be sincere in your inquiry. Listen to the answers and think about how you might be able to use this knowledge of your audience to deliver a better, more interesting presentation. If they experience a personal connection with you, they will get so much more out of it.
  • Entertain them while they wait for the event to start and during breaks (music/slideshow/Q&A/etc). Another (and probably better) way to entertain them is to encourage and coach networking. Ask them to introduce themselves to their neighbor . Give them a list of things to talk about. Name, Company, How long in the industry, what you want to learn from the session, what projects are you working on now, what projects do you want to do but can’t and why can’t you, what other events have you attended lately, Do you have a blog, if so, what do you like to blog about, What do you think about “social media”, what was the last movie you watched, or whatever… It really does not matter just give them some place to get started. This will help prevent or eliminate the “insiders club” scenarios. Some people [introverts] will resist this while others will love it. Make sure you or one of your close followers engages those that appear a bit more [introverted]. However, don’t force it. If some want to sit quietly, let them.
  • Get their attention – Once you get their attention, it is your job to keep it. Don’t get their attention by giving them something else to think about during you presentation. For example, don’t give them a riddle and tell them you will give them the answer later… they will just be thinking about the riddle instead of paying attention to you. The best way to get their attention is by your excitement. Excitement about your topic and content will go a long way to grabbing attention. Telling an impactful story is a great way to open. For those that are jokesters, I guess a good CLEAN joke works too. Monitor your audience, you will know if you are loosing your audience. If you are, get things back on track. You may have to do this several times during a presentation. Attention span for most is short. Keep that in mind and help them keep focused.
  • Tell several stories during the presentation – It is vitally important (hence don’t skip this one) to tell a story to drive points home. Instead of just telling them what might happen, give them an example of what did happen. Where do you get these stories? Some of your stories hopefully will come from the audience. Remember, you talked to them before the event. Personal experience is obviously a good way to incorporate a story. You should also go read case studies. Microsoft has lots of case studies. Allocate some time once a month or even once a week to go read some case studies. When you are reading the case studies, don’t just read them, visualize them. Visualize you in them. Really try to put yourselves in their shoes. This will help you greatly with your retention and ability to tell their story.
  • Remember their name – Ok, this one is really hard, no impossible for me. I have seen people do this and it is very effective. I hope one day to be able to hone this skill and take advantage. If you know an easy way to do this, please share it with me!
  • Have a plan B – Murphy tells us that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Believe it, and be prepared. Have a copy of your presentation on a USB stick so as a last resort you can borrow an attendee laptop to do the presentation. Don’t store that USB stick with the laptop. I keep mine around my neck so if my laptop and bag gets lost or stolen even 5 mins before the show, I can still make something happen. In your slides, have a few extra slides at the end with screen shots in case your demo machine does not work. Have a copy of the presentation online on a public facing sky drive or SharePoint portal for easy access. If you need Internet access, make sure you have a wired not just a wireless connection. Also, have an aircard just in case. I am actually a fan of having a Plan B, C, and D. The more redundancy you have built into your plans the lower the probability of a catastrophic failure.
  • Never, have a demo fail again … EVER!  (the power of video’s) and how to explain them so the audience will love them is important. If you have a blog or website, you will drive people to your site and increase your numbers there too!

Have your demo’s pre-recorded – this is a huge secret to success. Have the video’s on your USB stick and in the cloud so even if you have to borrow a laptop, you will not miss a beat. Use the video’s for your real presentation instead of just a backup plan. When you use the video, tell the audience you did the pre-work to record the demo to make it a better experience for them and explain why it will be better and they will greatly appreciate it. You will play the video with the speakers off and talking through what you are doing in the demo. So what makes it better?…

    • They do not have to watch you fumble in the dark at the keyboard
    • No Typo’s
    • You will make the video available on your blog (you should have a blog if you are a speaker). They will have the benefit of you standing over their shoulder doing the presentation for them when they want at a moments notice. While they are trying to implement these steps even if it is 2am on a Sunday morning 🙂 {kind-of… you are putting that visual in their head}
    • Don’t have to worry about skipping steps so they get 100% of the content
    • Helps you keep on time and on track
    • Processes that take a long time can be trimmed out in the video so they do not have to watch the pointer spin.

You do not have to give them all of the reasons, pick a few, tell a story about how they can benefit or how video’s have benefited others and they will love it. So you do not have any story’s. I guess that needs to be one of your questions when you are meeting people before the event. “Have you used any online screencast to help you solve technical problems”? Has a screencast ever saved you time in your job (or saved your bacon)? I use Camtasia for this. It is a great tool and if you are an MCT, you can get the latest version of Camtasia and Snag-it for free.

  • Pause, Pause, Pause take a breath and monitor your pace, tone, inflection, etc. You may be able to talk 1000 words a minute and most of the audience may be able to hear at your pace but they will not comprehend nearly as much as if you talk at a slower pace. Breath, take a drink of water, be in control. It is much easier to monitor the other little things like inflection and filler words when you are in control. If you have too much content, cut it out, don’t rush it. Place extra pauses in your presentation. More than just at the end of a sentence. Actually break your sentences up by putting an extra pause or two. Be careful not to slow down too much but I want to almost over emphasize how important pausing is. Pauses are also very effective at driving points home so learn how to use them. You will learn to love the power of the pause. Use them for complicated slides too. If you have a slide with a chart, you need to start off with a very long pause to give the audience enough time to look at your chart. Then another pause after you explain what they are looking at so they can take it in.
  • Explain the evaluation process and scorecard in terms that people can understand and believe


You should explain the evaluation. In the picture above I have a sample of an explanation of the Microsoft Scorecard. If you have a scorecard that goes from 1-9 the audience might think that a 5 is middle of the road so it is average. Maybe they give you a six thinking that you are a bit above average. In the case of the Microsoft evals, a 5 would be an “F” or a failure and a 6 would be a “D-” or poor score. In this case, the attendee thinks you are above average but Microsoft “interpreted” that as you thought they were “poor” because the attendee and Microsoft did not have the same definition. Whatever the definition of the scorecard, just make sure the audience uses the same scale as the people that are reviewing the evaluations. You are not pandering for score, you are explaining the scale. Review the scale first thing in the day then again at the end of the day. You need to do housekeeping like where are the restrooms and reminder about cell phone anyway so I tend to incorporate all of them. If you ask people to turn off their cell phone, make sure you remember to remind them to turn it back on.

  • Give audience a way to contact you either your blog or email. If you do not want them to contact you, then skip this but it does make a difference.
  • Give out a cheat sheet of links used in presentation (including where to download slides)– This will really go over big!!! Add your Call To Action checklist to the document.
  • Engage your audience
    • Asking Questions: There are different thoughts on asking questions. Some hate it and some love it. I am on the “I love it” side of things. If you do use questions to engage your audience make it easy for them to answer. Asking a bunch of questions that nobody knows makes them feel stupid. I tend to like questions that can be answered by a show of hands. Hey, be careful!!! If you use this technique, do not do it just to engage the audience. It needs to have value to the audience not just to the speaker. It is ok for the speaker to ask a few questions that they want the answer to but most should be targeted at information that the audience is interested in. (eg. If the presentation topic is Deploying Windows 7 …You may ask a question like “Let me get a show of hands, who already has some Windows 7 machines deployed in their organization, maybe it is your machine, power users or others?” Perhaps even a follow-up of “Who has already started deploying Windows 7 to standard users or expect they will start deploying in the next 12 months”? These questions are likely of value to the presenter but they are also “interesting” to this particular audience.
    • Look at and talk TO your audience – look at the audience. Pick someone in the audience to look at in the audience and look at them while you are talking for about 10-15 seconds. Then look at someone else in a different part of the audience. Then, repeat the process throughout the presentation. The person you are looking at, and 10 people around them, will think you are looking at and talking to them. Don’t constantly look at your notes and definitely, don’t look at the screen. Avoid turning your back to the audience
    • Walk Around I am a fan of getting into the audience. Get closer to them by walking down the isle on occasion and look at people in the back of the room while you are in the audience. This goes a long way to really engaging. Walk back up front while you are in a pause. Avoid turning your back to the audience especially while you are talking.
    • Answer Audience questions – Be prepared to answer questions. Your choice if you do it during the presentation or at the end. Cut the content if you have to in order to leave a bit of time for Q&A. Book your flight a little later or adjust your plans so you can stay a bit later for Q&A. It is true that this benefit may not show up on the evals for this session because they are potentially already turned in before the end of the event but you will build a reputation of doing what it takes to help them and it will show in the long run.
    • Have giveaway items – have T-Shirts or other giveaway items available to give to your audience and use them for those that are active. For those that answer a question correctly, ask a question or are otherwise engaged.
    • Don’t let anyone hijack your event If you have someone that chimes in too much, let them know. An example of how I do this is: “What is your name [pause while they answer [Greg}], Thanks {Greg} I really appreciate your motivation and participation in the discussion and I really value your input. If you do not mind, I would like to try to give others more of a chance to get involved. If they are someone that is asking questions, you might add that you will be happy to take more of their questions at the end of the day. Bottom line: Don’t let someone hijack your event . You must stay in control!
  • Who’s side are you on? You should ALWAYS be on the same side as your audience. Always talk in terms of you being part of the audience. Let them know you are one of them. Never put yourself on a pedestal, and never talk down to them. Keep it positive and use terms like “we” instead of terms like “you” when talking about a representative sample of your audience.
  • IMPACTFUL EXIT Send them away with impact. Give them a call to action. What do you want them to do as a result of your presentation. Ask them to do it and perhaps even give them a checklist (on your handout) of things they should do. Make your call to action the last thing they think about. Call to action at the end of the presentation then a quick review after the drawing as the last thing they here from you.
  • Additional Objectives are OK– In almost every presentation I do, I pick an extra message I want to portray to the audience and take a few minutes to get that message out. I have several that I have used including: self improvement through free education (blogs, video’s live events), Innovation, Community Service, User Group Involvement, User Group promotion, Giving to charity or whatever.
  • Much, Much, More goes into becoming a successful presenter. There are many books and seminars on the topic. They include things like, posture, Inflection, pace, avoid filler words (um, so, etc), preparation, closing, where to stand, how to use your hands, your eyes, you feet, etc. This blog post is just the highlights and I hope many others will add their 2 cents to make this a much better document over time.

Bottom Line:  Take a couple of these items and start practicing for your next event!  Have fun and build excitement at your event and in your community!  Comment on this post with your ideas and your successes.  {impactful exit 🙂 }

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