How to get lucky in your next presentation?

It was Samuel Goldwyn, of the movie company MGM, who said “The harder I work, the luckier I get”.   So how does one get lucky with presentations?  I often think of a presentation as living on a timeline.  There are things to do before the presentation, things to do during and things to do after that set us up for luck, for success.  These are some things we do.

In our ‘before phase’ we spend a lot of time thinking about the audience – who are they, what are they thinking etc. and then establishing our 3 key messages. This is before we have even opened up PowerPoint. This sounds really straightforward so far.  No surprises.  Once we have our audience and content right we then practice.  This comes as a real surprise to most people including some of our clients. The famous golfer Gary Player said something similar to Goldwyn’s quote, “The more I practice, the luckier I get”.  There is simply no escaping the hard yards; it’s practice, practice and more practice.  Everyone has his or her favorite way of practising.  Mine is to record myself into my phone and hear it back, or loud in the car.  People are afraid they will seem too contrived if they practice.  Believe me you won’t, as it’s your material, you will own it.  I rather take the risk of seeming too polished than coming across as poorly prepared.

Our mentor Peter Cook says right on the day the most important thing is your mindset.  Do you see the presentation as a bore, something you have to do, or do you want to give it your best shot? On ‘The Voice’ channel 9’s reality TV show, Seal gave each of his team members a folded sheet of paper to prepare them for their battle ahead.  When they opened it, the paper simply said ‘There is nothing else there”.  He wanted them to approach this as if there was nothing else there.  Imagine approaching your next presentation with this mindset.

And finally the ‘After phase’.  Spending a minute or two evaluating how you went.  You can ask a trusted advisor in the audience and read the twitter feed.  Always ask yourself what you would keep and what you would do differently.  Evaluation is a dish best served hot!

All of this sounds simple but it’s having the discipline to do it every time for every presentation.  Way back in the first century, Seneca, a Roman philosopher who seems like a really cool guy nailed it when he said ‘Luck is where preparation meets opportunity’.  So see every presentation as an opportunity to shine and prepare like mad to get there.

How to make your key messages sexy?

Every time I read my twitter feed I always seem to click on the links Mia Freedman suggests…even if it’s not something I’m really interested in!  Mia has mastered the art of a compelling attention grabbing head line that even a time poor information overloaded twitter user is loathe to go past.  Imagine if we applied that same practice to the key messages in our presentations.  The way we presented our key message made our audience immediately click with us, and what we are trying to say.

Most messages in presentations are pretty stock standard, and come in only one flavour bland.  So how can you sex up your key messages?

When we say sexy we mean packaging your key messages so they are a memorable repeatable sound bite.  This is not about ‘dumbing down’ your messages or using corporate jargon this is about ‘smarting down’ your messages in a way people will connect and remember.  So here are our top tips, and they all involve leaving your clothes on!

Tip 1: ‘Smart down’ your message
Find the right words to say what you have said – but words that are memorable and grab people’s attention.

Look to newspaper headlines for inspiration.  Who can past the New York Post’s most famous headline ‘Headless body in topless bar’.  A less gruesome  and more recent example is from one of workshop participants, Tim.  Tim’s key message was ‘Results from last year’ which were spectacular.  Quite a stock standard message. He made it sexy by calling this first message ‘Why I love you?”. So in his presentation he said ‘I want to start by telling you why I love you’.  KABOOM! We are sure he would have everyone’s attention.  Compare that with the more conventional start of ‘I am here to share last year’s results’.  YAWN boring.

Another participant Michael was also presenting Sales Targets for 2013.  He repackaged it to say ‘Living your dream in 2013’ and  said ‘I’m here to show you how you can live your dream in 2013’, needless to say he had everyone hanging on to his every word.

Tip 2: Spin it:
What if you have a boring message that has already been said?  Your challenge in sexing it up is, to think about a different spin you can put on it?

We are going to use the title of books to help you.

Stephen Covey wrote the first best seller on productivity – how to increase your productivity.  But he didn’t call it that. He called it ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’.  Imagine starting a presentation by saying ‘I’m here to share the 7 habits of highly effective people’.

Just when we thought the productivity thing was done and dusted along came David Allan with his ‘Get Things Done’.  That title is his one and only key message and again another bestseller.  Surely there was no other way to package this key message.  But viola we now have another bestseller with Timothy Ferris’s ‘The 4 hour week’, again the key message is in the title.  Imagine the lure the promise of these titles.  They are sexy!  That’s what we want from you key messages with chutzpah, with flair, that can excite and enthrall your audience.

Tip 3: Short is sexy
And finally your sexy message must be short – 15 seconds to 30 seconds maximum.  Before we discovered the lure of the sexy key message we used to say ‘Storytelling can help you increase your sales by more effectively engaging with your customers’. Now our new, sexy short version.  ‘Facts tell, Story sells’.

Remember that saying ‘it’s not what you say, it s how you say it.  THAT”S CRAP… We live in a content rich world, so the only way you can help your audience find you in a tsumani of information is by focusing on ‘what you say’.  Yes of course how you say it matters but it is what you say that counts.  So for your next presentation remember to sex up your key messages, ‘Smart down’ your message by finding the right words, put a new spin on it and keep it short.  Who knows your next key message might replace that New York Times headline as the most memorable ever?