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3 Checkpoints to Presentation Success: A Practical Guide to Creating a Clear & Focused Presentation
In 2018, I embarked on a new project with the intention of exposing my brand to more people and to give as much value to business leaders and owners through the power of presentation skills.
This is a summation of what I’ve learned, where I am now, and where I want to take it:
Where it started
In March, I started Speakup Meetup as a fortnightly meetup for business owners and entrepreneurs to practice the art of public speaking to a supportive audience – other business owners. It was supposed to bring value to the speaker (who received feedback), but it also allowed other prospective speakers to evaluate and see how other experienced speakers presented.
It allowed them to evaluate their techniques and apply to their own presentations. The content matter presented had to be relevant to business owners so that those who were there only for the networking saw value in coming along.
As the fortnights rolled along, we had a variety of speakers with varying experience, stories and presentation styles. Personally, it was a blast hosting all of these. I had a lot of fun hosting guests and observers as well, all their for their own reasons – some wanting to improve their public speaking skills, some just to network, some just to support a particular speaker on the day.
As much as it was a delight to see a core group of people come along consistently (some since day one), we were struggling to attract and retain people who were on the fringes. Some people would visit the first week, nominate to speak, deliver their presentation a fortnight later, then not come back after they presented.
Another drawback was cost. The venue cost was $100 each time, which meant that we needed at least 10 people to come along to break even.
My key learnings from running my first meetup group:
One August afternoon after one of the meetups had finished, I heard from two of my regulars that Speakup Meetup had become a mastermind group of sorts. I was encouraged by this – it gave the notion of a group focused on particular objectives for presentation skills improvement and accountability.
- Keep to time. Speakers don’t know how much time they had left, so I needed to make it clearer when their time was up. As a facilitator of most of these meetings, it was important to keep to time to respect the schedules of others. Sometimes I didn’t do a great job at this, however the guests who had to leave were graceful and polite in leaving when they needed to.
- Keep the vision strong. With a room filled with different personalities and different motivations, it was important for me to communicate clearly why we were gathered together and why it was important to keep it going. I believe I did this with some varying degrees of success, however, it highlighted to me the importance of communicating a compelling vision consistently.
- The more specific you are the more helpful you are. Some feedback given on sheets to speakers were just ‘you did great!’ or ‘I loved this’. Provide reasons why you thought the speaker did a fantastic job at engaging the audience during his introduction. Was it the way he dressed? Was it his vocal tonality? Maybe his smile? The more specific we are with feedback, the more beneficial it is for the speaker and for others.
- Don’t lose momentum. One of the advantages of having a fortnightly meetup and asking people ‘who wants to present next time?’, was that there was always momentum for the next meetup. I was scheduled to go on an overseas trip for 3 weeks which meant that I had to pause the group for two fortnights (four weeks). One of my regulars, Wendy, advised me that pausing the group would lose momentum, so she put her hand up to run it.
- People believed in it, sometimes more than I did. I took this opportunity to release Wendy to run it for two fortnights. It motivated me to document everything and to hand it over to her so she could run it without me. When I came back I was highly encouraged that the group was still intact and that even participants who turned up when I was absent had turned up again.
Where we are now
Currently, we’re seeing less than 10 people turn up each week (and mostly the core regulars), which if you do the math coupled with my time investment, is not sustainable, nor was it injecting any freshness for the group.
In this time, it was made clearer to me what I wanted the group to become and see what it could be in the future.
What’s coming up?
I want to continue to cultivate an environment of growth and improvement, along with the values of kindness, necessity and candour, and good humour.
Instead of running it every fortnight indefinitely, I see it as a series of weekly meetups in four-week sprints (so one meetup every week for four weeks). We have six speakers, three speakers each week.
- 1st week – speakers A, B and C speak and receive feedback
- 2nd week – speakers D, E and F speak and receive feedback
- 3rd week – week 1 speakers present a talk based on the feedback they received
- 4th week – week 2 speakers present a talk based on the feedback they received
But can’t speakers just turn up on the weeks they’re scheduled to speak?
I know what it’s like to be sitting in a room just before you present. It’s very difficult to be completely present when you’re listening to other speakers before you. Privately, you are preparing yourself for your performance.
It’s only fair then, that speakers D, E and F be present on weeks 1 and 3 as they don’t feel the pressure to present, and can be completely free to give quality feedback to speakers A, B and C. Of course, if speaker A is receiving feedback, it won’t stop speakers B and C giving it. However it just gives more opportunity for that speaker to receive a wide-ranging amount of feedback in week 1 or 3 and it be reciprocated in weeks 2 and 4.
Those who speak make a commitment to come every week (including those weeks they’re not speaking) so as to give as much value, encouragement and support to the rest of the group. They’re accountable to each other.
What’s in it for the speakers?
If you nominate to speak, you receive:
- A video recording of both presentations to be used for potential social media and marketing purposes
- A cohort who are accountable to each other and support one another
- View other presenters and an opportunity to learn from their presentation strengths
- Identify and confirm your own pre-existing presentation strengths
- An opportunity to improve your presentation skills based on the specific feedback you receive
- Receive one-on-one debrief coaching from myself at the end
What’s the investment?
For those nominated to speak, the investment would be $220 inc GST for the four weeks.
For those attending each week who are just observing, it’s $20 to attend each time and you can also give feedback if you so wish.
When does this start?
As a pilot to test this new direction, I’m proposing that we start November 16 2018 and run through ’til December 7 (Nov 16, 23, 30, Dec 7). It will be held in a different venue this time – State Library of WA, and most probably run for 1.5 hours, with a proposed start time of 10am.