In this episode Chris shares with you 10 things that professional speakers do on they day they are speaking.
1. Getting there early
2. Checking out the room
3. Meeting the AV team
4. Owning the tech
5. Multiple versions of their slides
6. Being prepared for anything
7. Visiting other sessions
8. Hanging out after their talk
9. Keeping to time
10. Controlling their introduction
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Welcome back to the Content Marketing Academy podcast. Today, I want to talk to you about being a speaker, and preparation that’s required for speaking. This is just to kind of get the positioning right here.
This is not like applying to speak at an event, or doing all the preparation like slides and all that kind of stuff before an event. This is like if your presentation is today.
You’re turning up to the event today to speak kind of preparation. Very immediate preparation that’s required for you to be a professional, or be more professional in how you speak and how you approach speaking.
I’ve got ten things that I think will help you to be better prepared to make sure that nothing goes wrong on the day or that you have got a better hold on what happens on the day, so that less things could go wrong.
This is more about preparation, so when you get up on that stage and you are presenting, you’ve got as much control as you can and you’re fully prepared. There are certainly other things as well, I think, that professionals do, that I think is good to share here as well.
Get There Early
Let’s just get stuck in, right? The first thing I want to say is, that you’ve got to get there early. If you’ve got a bunch of gigs happening, the chances of having two gigs on one day are probably pretty slim for most people, but it can happen. Let’s, for sake of argument, let’s say you haven’t got two gigs that day.
Get there early, get there at least half an hour early. If you’ve got more time than that, get there the day before. It just depends on, I know we’re all busy, but get there early anyway. There’s a few reasons why you want to get there early. Let’s get stuck into those.
Get into the room
The first thing is, after that, the second point is to get into that room. You want to get into the room and hopefully get into the room when there’s no one else in it, or it’s between speakers or something like that. Say it’s lunch time for example. Any opportunity that you can get in there, to stand on the stage, check the tech as well. For example, in the room you want to do certain things like stand on the stage, and also stand on the stage with the shoes on that you’re actually going to be sort of standing in or using when you’re presenting.
You never know how you might feel up there. It could be different between having a pair of trainers on and having a set of heels on, right? That could be a completely different experience depending on what kind of stage you’re on. You also want to find where the light is.
Find where the light is
For example, I was in a room just recently where there was two spotlights for the stage. If the speaker wasn’t standing in the spotlight, you couldn’t see them from the back of the room. This is an example of where you’re hot, and where you’re cold on the stage. Find out where that best setting is for you. Move around the stage, find out what the best place is in terms of lighting. Check the temperature as well, if it’s going to be hot or cold, or if there’s going to be any distractions. Get familiar with your surroundings with the room.
Also, go on and off the stage a few times with the shows that you’re wearing, just to get a feel for the steps if there are any. How you’re going to make that transition on and off the stage, especially if you tend to come on and off the stage when you’re speaking as well.
Generally speaking, when you get there early, check the room out. That’s just to get a feel for your environment that you’re going to be speaking in. You can kind of … it doesn’t feel foreign, it isn’t the first time you’re experiencing the room when you’re up on that stage doing your performance.
Introduce yourself to AV
The third thing is, is to introduce yourself to the AV guy or the AV woman/lady, at the back of the room, wherever they are. The team, the AV team.
Introduce yourself to them, make friends with them, find out their names, and then just have a chat with them about the kind of microphone you’re going to be using, where you’re going to be running your laptop from if you’ve got one, and all of that kind of good stuff.
Just get a feel for what they’re expecting from you. When it comes to your turn to set up and stand up there, it’s going to take you just two minutes to get your things all set up, so you know exactly what to expect. For example, if you get there and you introduce yourself to the AV team and they say something like, “We’re going to run all of the laptops from the back of the room,”. Then, in that case, you’re going to have to be prepared to not be able to see your slides or maybe they have got monitors at the front of the room, confidence monitors at the front of the room so you can see your slides.
AV teams run things in all different ways. Get there early, and introducing yourself to the AV team is a really, really good idea.
For example, I was at an event recently, I turned up on a Tuesday. I wasn’t speaking until that Thursday. We were also attending that event, but one of the first things I did on the Tuesday was, I went and met Eric, who was the AV guy in my room. I introduced myself to him, we had a walk around the room. We got chatting to each other, and he remembered me when I turned up the Thursday for my talk as well. Always good to get there early. Good to check out the room so your prepared for anything.
The last thing you want is to turn up at your room, and say for example the speaker before you runs on and leaves you less time to get your set ups all organised. Then something happens, like for example, there’s an HDMI cable instead of an RGB cable or VGA cable. Something simple like that can really throw you off, or for example, you turn up and they want you to use their technology rather than yours. That can throw you off as well. You really want to get there early and speak to the AV team and check the room out.
Make sure you’ve got all the tech you need
That’s the first three things. The fourth thing that follows on from that is tech. You want to make sure that you’ve got all the technology you need. Cables, chargers, power clickers, remotes, whatever it is that you need to make sure that you’ve got control over the situation. Whether or not you end up using all of this equipment is neither here nor there. The fact that you have it allows you to have, to make sure that whatever you do is going to be professional. I always turn up with like, two of everything.
I’ve got HDMI, I use a mac. If you use a mac, you’re going to have to get all the dongles, or the … the things that you need to transfer from HDMI to Mac port, or a VGA to Mac port, or USB to Mac port depending on what kind of mac that you use. You have to make sure that you’ve got all of these things. I also use a cocoon grid IT, I think it’s called. I’ll put links to this into the show notes for you. That keeps all my cables and dongles and all that kind of good stuff organised. I just turn up and I’ve got it all, it’s always there for me.
Make sure you’ve got your tech, your tech sorted out because you never know what you might turn up into. Sometimes you turn up into a room that there’s, when there’s no AV team and you kind of have to deal with it yourself.
It depends on the size of event, if it’s a massive expo, the chances of having a room host at an expo are slim to none. It really depends, you want to be in as much control as you possibly can. This is exactly how a professional speaker would do it.
Number five, slides. Let’s talk about this for a second. You do want to, obviously, have your slides preloaded onto your laptop. Perfect scenario is, you turn up, plug your laptop in, use your remote, and you’re good to go and everything’s easy. Everything other than that could be that the laptop needs to be run from the back of the room, or they want to run it on their laptop.
That means you’re going to have to need your slides on something like a USB stick, or you’re going to have to be able to email them or send them electronically somehow. You want to have your slides ready on another area where they can get them.
That can just be a link or a USB. Ideally a USB because again, you’ve got to rely on the internet. Have your slides handy for using them on another laptop. The other great thing about that as well, if your laptop for some reason dies on you, or something goes wrong with your laptop, you’ve got your slides available to you. That’s the top five tips there.
Be prepared for anything
Number six, be prepared for anything.
This comes down to something we’ve covered before on the podcast, is practise. Make sure you have your talk down. If you use slides, make sure you can give your talk without the slides as well. A lot of people use their slides to help them advance in their presentation, but make sure you can do your presentation without your slides. You never know what might happen. It happens more often than you’d think. The slides don’t work, the microphone breaks, things happen, flip charts fall over, fire alarms go off … Things happen, you’ve got to be prepared for that.
Recently I had the really hot room that I was in. The mistake that I made was I actually mentioned it at the start. You don’t need to mention these things. This is what we teach at World Class Communication (WCC): the power of “Yes, and,” which is really about doing anything to move the conversation forward. If something goes wrong, you just keep going. You just keep going, “yes and,” it. Be prepared for anything, and that just really comes down to practise.
Another example of this was, and it’s the one that’s top of mind was, I was at a presentation, a big conference in the states last year, and the clicker wouldn’t work. Honestly, every time they want to advance a slide, they mentioned the clicker. All I can think about now, even a year later, is just the clicker. I can’t remember anything from the presentation. In the moment, all the energy and attention from the audience and from the speaker is going to the clicker.
That can just be ignored. You can walk over to your laptop and click advance. You can ask the AV team to advance your slides for you. You just need to be able to react to the things that are happening around you. You may get a cough, or you … you just don’t know what’s going to happen. Be prepared for anything. Again, practise makes perfect with these things.
That being said, every mistake, every sort of mistake … anything that happens out of the ordinary, you deal it once badly, usually, don’t you? Then you learn from it. Everything that does happen, I would see as a challenge.
For example, I was speaking in Nottingham this year. The slides failed, maybe two, three times through our presentation. That was a lesson for me. That was a lesson in strength and confidence for me in dealing with that situation. Actually, at the time, it felt really, like a real challenge, but on reflection, that was a great test for me. It’s the same for you as well, that will happen.
You’ve got to be prepared for it, but allow it to strengthen you, and allow you to get better.
Visit Other Sessions
Another reason for getting there early as well, I should have mentioned this earlier, is, you want to be able to visit other sessions. If it’s a bigger conference, with say, 50 speakers or a hundred speakers or something like that, you can always get a feel for the audience, right? I sit at the back of the room and look at what they’re doing on their laptops and their phones, how much attention they’re paying, what questions they’re asking, what kind of size the audience is. Just have a look at what’s happening in other sessions, what the environment’s like, what the audience is like, what their reactions are like.
Also, as a side note, it’s good to go in and support your speakers. The speakers are your peers as well, and to see what they’re doing really well. You can learn from other speakers as well. The idea is obviously not to sit down there and be a critic, but actually just to listen to them and see their style and what they’re up to.
What I’ve noticed a lot recently is, other professional speakers are great at supporting their peers, something I would advise you to do as well, is to visit these other sessions. Look at the audience, but also be there to support your peers, too.
Hang around afterwards
Coming in to close now, I think … in terms of getting there early and time and building time in, you also need to build in time for hanging around afterwards as well.
The people in your audience will want to ask you questions, they’ll also want to hang out with you maybe, pick your brain a little bit, and I think it’s good to build in that time.
There’s many, most cases, I think most speakers get there early and do hang around after for a period of time, but there are occasions where people just fly away afterwards, and they don’t hang around. Obviously you want to build in time to hang around. I think that’s the best thing to do.
Keep to time
Number nine, keep on time, keep to time. This again comes back to practise. If your session’s 45 minutes, make sure it’s 45 minutes. Start on time, finish on time … the starting on time part is important. For example, say the speaker before you runs over time. Your ability to get ready fast and jump on stage immediately is a good position to be in.
Also, your speaker might run over by ten or fifteen minutes into your session. You have to be prepared to finish on time, even if you prepared a 45 minute talk, but you’ve only got 40 minutes or 30 minutes. You need to be as a professional, you can be that person that saves the day for the organiser as well. Makes them look like a hero.
Again, I think there’s key things here that you could do wrong, that could make this a problem for you or a challenge for you. One of them is not really knowing your talk that well. Trying to squeeze in as much as you possibly can, don’t add in anything last minute. If you do anything last minute, it should be to take things away, not to add them in.
Make sure you’re practised and rehearsed. Make sure you know exactly how long your talk lasts for. You’ve got total control and you feel, you don’t feel like you’ve got an added pressure. For example, if I’m about to take the stage and someone says, you need to cut 15 minutes out of your talk, that should be relatively simple for me to do. Don’t panic, just go, okay, what are we going to skip? And then you just get stuck into it.
Control your introduction
Number ten is something I’ve experienced recently myself is your own intro. For example, at most conferences and most places where you speak, the person that’s hosting the event or the room host, or the organiser, the curator, will have an introduction for you. They’ll stand up on the stage and they’ll make an introduction.
Ideally, you want to have as much control over that as possible. Make sure that they’ve got your bio, your intro ready for you, and the case where you don’t have it ready for you, which is something I experienced recently, you want to have a copy of that introduction probably a printed copy, in your bag with you, or you want to be able to hand it over to them on a mobile device or something like that.
Ideally, have it on your website, right? It’s really easy to get to or have it in an Evernote, somewhere where you can get to it really easily. Recently I was in a room where they didn’t have an intro for me and I wasn’t prepared with something to give them.
Again, coming back to my earlier point when you’re meeting the AV team, it’s probably a good idea to meet the room host as well. Ask them if they’ve got everything they need, check if they’ve got your intro, and it’s the right one, and you might even want to walk it through with them as well.
I was looking at a lot of lessons I’ve learned as well along the way. Even just as recently as last week and hope that these ten tips will help you to be more professional, up your game, and also just to look better on the stage.
That’s the ideal … this is the sort of whole purpose of these ten tips I’ve shared with you is so when you take to the stage, your performance goes without a glitch and you’ll look amazing up there. That’s the whole idea. That your performance looks great, and everyone has a great experience. The audience, the organiser, the AV team and you too.
Hope that’s been helpful for you. Any questions, any ideas, any thoughts, email me Chris@cmauk.co.uk. Hope you’ve had an amazing day and DFTBA.
Thanks again for joining me on the Content Marketing Academy podcast. If you would like to find out more about content marketing, and change the way that your business communicates forever, please visit contentcrashcourse.co.uk for your free ten day content marketing email course.