Big Presentation Tips

This past week I did a thirty-minute talk as the leadoff presentation of our internal symposium.  This was one of my larger talks I have done, and it was an important one in my professional world.  A few days have past and I have had a chance to reflect on the overall experience.  I am happy to report the talk itself went well, based on the feedback I got.  Most importantly, my boss was happy!

Doing great presentations is an required skill for leaders in today’s business world.  I have decided to double my efforts to improve in this area.  I’ve been told I am competent as a speaker, but I would like to become a lot better at it.  It’s probably the best thing I can do to prepare for the next level.

I learned a few valuable lessons that I will apply next time (hopefully) I am invited to do a talk.  The three big lessons were: be clear about your goal, work with a team and rehearse in front of an audience.

Be Clear About Your Goal

In this recent experience, the goal was apparent to me.  I was speaking in front of an external expert and I had a good idea of what he was going to say.  As I was going through preparation, I went back to my objective: to energize and inspire the audience.  Essentially I wanted to “build a bridge” to next speaker.  I found it helpful to remind myself of that objective often during the process.  It helped me stay on point and get the right content in the talk.

Work With a Team

As a senior manager, I have access to a great team in my laboratory.  I brought together a small group of people to help me craft the presentation file, sound out the key messages and provide encouragement and support.  I don’t think you’d need direct reports to build a team to help.  If it’s important enough, you should not have too much trouble getting some teammates to help.  Probably the biggest help my team provided in this experience was to provide encouragement, especially as the talk got closer.  They helped me keep things in perspective.

Rehearse In Front of An Audience

For big presentations, I found it to be critical to give the talk to as large an audience as you can find.  If you can replicate the venue of the talk that is helpful as well.  This will help you figure out the time of your talk, and give you a chance to gather feedback.  As my instructor a few weeks ago said, it’s all about muscle memory.  If you go through a good dress rehearsal, your body will remember how it felt and it will reduce your stress as a speaker.

As I mentioned earlier, I think being clear about the goal, working with a team and rehearsing in front of an audience will be the activities I will focus on next time I get the call to do a big presentation.

Cool New Twitter feature: Who to follow

Who to follow on Twitter
New Twitter feature

I noticed a few days ago that Twitter has created a new feature that suggests people to follow on Twitter, much in the way Facebook does it.  I’ve found it to be useful to find people of interest in my work, as well as my personal interests.  On the Twitter web page, look on the right side of your home page, there you will find a “Who to follow” section which includes a few ideas for people to follow based on the people you are already following on Twitter.  If you click the “view all” link, you will find a much longer list of suggestions.  Furthermore, there is navigation on the right-hand side of that page listing major categories.  This is really useful.  A much more focused list follows where it becomes very efficient to pick and choose who to follow.  I found some real gems in these lists.  More is better, I believe.  Yes, it’s more information to process.  However, with a tool like Twitter it is very easy to quickly cull through information to figure out what is happening in the world.

Based on my earlier post on accessing thought leadership with Twitter, this is a great way to get a finger on the pulse of interesting external developments.  In my world, it’s about new technology developments around software and systems.  Most recently, I have used Twitter to follow Apple iPhone/iPad developments, which has proven to be useful.