Tips for giving the speech of your life

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This month my team is helping a client put together a “make or break” presentation that will either see him get one of the biggest contracts of his life or send him packing to regroup and start again. 

No pressure, eh?

So, while we’re in the thick of it, I thought I would share a few tips on giving an incredible presentation.

Follow these six rules and you’ll increase your chances of success exponentially.

Do your research

Your talk needs to relate to the sphere in which your audience operates every day. If you’re presenting to a company, you need to understand their strategy, their business goals, their purpose. This will help you demonstrate how your product, service, idea or partnership can help them achieve their goals.

Use your networks to find out information about the people you’re talking to. What’s their style, what excites them, what are their pet hates, what sort of attention spans do they have, are they creative or analytical?

Being well-researched will help you engage and relate to your audience.

Know who’s in the room

Whether you are selling your services, giving a conference speech or delivering a motivational talk, you need to understand who is going to be listening.

Who’s going to be in the room? What are their job titles, what are their interests, what are their motivations?

And don’t ever make assumptions. For the speech we’re working on, we originally thought it was a presentation to two people, but a quick query led us to discover it’s going to be 14. If we hadn’t asked this simple question, can you imagine the “oh crap” moment our client would have had when he walked into the room?

Know who’s in the room and you’ll be one step closer to understanding how to connect.

Earn the right to be there

When giving an important speech, sales pitch or presentation, you can’t simply launch into your own, selfish reason for being there. This is especially true if you are asking for something significant from your audience. The first thing you need to do is make a great connection with the individuals in your audience and earn the right to take up their valuable time.

By launching into the crux of your talk too soon, you’ll leave the audience thinking, “Who is this person and why should I care?” You don’t want to risk them turning off and disengaging.

So, start your talk by giving some information about yourself. Talk about what led you to being in front of your audience today. Be authentic, real, personable and work to make a connection.

Developing a bond with your audience first helps you earn respect, gain attention and will increase your chances of success.

Keep it all about them

When putting together a sales pitch or persuasive speech, it’s only human nature to have selfish objectives regarding the outcome you want for yourself. Of course you want to sell your product or sign a partnership agreement or convince people of your way of thinking.

But the key thing to remember is that you will get what you want by keeping your key points focused on your audience and what is in it for them.

What benefits will they realise, how can you help them reach their goals faster, how will you make them look good to their boss, how can you satisfy their selfish ambitions?

Check your language and your key points and make sure it’s focused on your audience, not you.

Don’t forget to ask

How do you end your talk?  Don’t forget to ask for what you want. 

The biggest mistake I’ve seen people make in presentations is leaving their audience with lots of information but failing to “close the deal”.  You’ve only got one chance – make it count. Tell your audience exactly what you want and pause to hear the answer.  If you’ve followed the steps above, then it’ll be hard for them to say no.

By asking for what you want and getting an answer, you’ll be able to move to the next step or move on. 

Practise out loud

With any speech, it is imperative to practise out loud.

Words on paper often sound incredibly different when spoken. Words that make sense in a written document can sometimes trip you up, but you’ll never know until you talk it through.

It’s also impossible to tell how long a written speech will take until you do a real live practice session. If you can find a friendly person or two to listen and give you honest feedback, that’s even better.  But at the very least, speak it out loud to yourself several times before the big day.

Stumbling over your words and running over time is a huge mistake that’s avoidable with a little bit of practice.

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