In November, 1981, I gave a presentation to the Virginia Road Builders. I knew this presentation would shape the future of my career, and I prepared and prepared and prepared. I wrote every word I intended to say and then made the presentation with no notes. (We didn’t have PowerPoint presentations then and I didn’t want to use an overhead projector.)
Presentations I gave made my career. I sensed that if I could get in front of a group of contractors, I could demonstrate my knowledge of their business. Presentations may make your career. In this blog and others, I want to share how to deliver a remarkable presentation.
When possible, I liked to arrive early. I did it for several reasons. First, I wanted to know how the room would be set up. Second, I wanted to make sure the technology was working for the video and audio I usually included in my presentation.
Once I was confident everything was working, I went out into the audience and introduced myself as people arrived early. I did this to create a connection with the audience. I did my very best to remember the names of people I met.
I rarely if ever used a podium and you shouldn’t either. You do not want the podium to block you from the audience. A podium also can be a crutch for you to lean on holding it with both hands. If you are not planning to use the podium let the event coordinators know that in advance and ask for a lavalier microphone.
I urge you also to speak on the floor level rather than on the elevated stage. Why? You will get better eye contact and engage the audience more effectively when you are on their level and walking around. It is nice to be able to advance the slides with a remote when you speak from the audience level. So, find out if they have a remote, or if you will need to set up your computer on a table.
The first 90 seconds of your presentation are critical. During that time the audience is asking themselves: “What is in this for me?” You need to give them an answer. I urge you to spend a great deal of time creating an answer to what is in it for me in those first 90 seconds.
Engaging your audience keeps their interest. When I spoke to contractor groups, I frequently used short little case studies and I would say: “You be the judge. How should this come out?” I wanted to create a discussion with my audience. In the video clip above I asked the audience a question to engage them.
Lawyers tend to use a linear structure to their presentation, giving background information first and then leading up to the main point. Your audience does not want to know the history of Swiss watch making, they just want to know the time. Giving background information also violates my 90 Seconds rule. The better structure is to pose a problem and then offer a solution.
Do you have an opportunity to make a presentation to your target market? Take time, make it the best they have ever heard from a lawyer.