I am always interested in why young people become writers, and from talking with many I have concluded that most do not want to be writers working eight and ten hours a day and accomplishing little; they want to have been writers, garnering the rewards of having completed a best-seller. They aspire to the rewards of writing but not to the travail.
~ James A. Michener ~
You have your topic, you’ve polished your skills and you are ready to hit the road. What an awesome experience you are about to get. Jet setting the world as audience after audience cheer and roar as you conclude you speak from the platform.
Even though your contact may think he or she is in touch with the needs of your participants, it is especially important to talk to the participants yourself. Whether you email, phone or fax them, it is effective to ask them about their needs directly.
How I leaned this: An organizer told me that his people were brand new to networking, so wanted basic information. When I arrived at the session it was obvious that many of the participants had been networking effectively for quite some time.
Check your clothing carefully for gaps, opening or see-through bits.
How I learned this: just guess.
Bring an extra lightbulb if you are using an overhead projector. Murphy’s law is especially pertinent when it comes to equipment and machinery. If you are using any audio-visual make sure you can run your session without it and that you have backup equipment and supplies.
How I leaned this: I tried to show a PowerPoint presentation that just wouldn’t come up. Walking people through it (which I did) was even worse.
Ask for a map or directions on how to get to your venue. Many is the time when I have found myself circling 445A street looking for the place I am going to speak. How I wish I had asked for a map or to have someone walk me through the directions. You might want to try to look up the directions yourself with mapquest or mapblast. Even better, invest in a good map booklet for the area if you are doing a lot of work there.
How I learned this: I wish I had asked which Starbucks in Metrotown was the one where I was having the meeting.
Check your supplies. No matter how many times I have done certain workshops I always check the supplies before I leave. I use comprehensive lists of what I am supposed to take and then make sure I take it. It can be pretty hard to find dried peas in Fort St. John at midnight.
How I learned this: I tried to do a workshop once about spinning things and forgot the basic supplies to make up the spinning tops. I stayed up all night trying to jury rig something out of plasticine and elastic bands. Added stress.
Show the audience how they will benefit from listening to you; and put the benefits up near the front. All audiences are interested in how what you are going to say will help them personally. Whether you tell them you will help them become less stressed, make more money, be more beautiful or save the ancient panda, I think it is best to have it near the beginning of your speech.
How I learned this: I once did a speech which I thought was great. The audience laughed and enjoyed it, but afterwards, someone asked me how it related to their life. It made me think that I could have been a lot clearer.
Wear comfortable shoes. Get a pair of shoes that look good, feel good and won’t make you trip.
How I learned this: Trip, wham, oops, and more stress.
Carry your business card in every available pocket. Pop them everywhere, they are such useful little promotions of your business. I now have some in a little silver case in my main briefcase (so distinguished and elegant), some in another pocket of that briefcase, some in my handbag and some in every pocket of my dress pants.
How I learned this: I gave a great little networking speech once only to follow it up by having to admit that I had forgotten to bring any business cards. DUH! First and last time.
Don’t borrow too heavily from another speaker. I have seen it, you have seen it and it destroys the credibility of the speaker. If you are borrowing from someone else, with permission, mention their name. For example, I usually say, “ a fellow speaker, Michael Bean, had a wonderful story I want to share with you….”
How I learned this: This one I learned by watching someone speak and use material that I know I had created myself. Slow burn.
Use the right microphone for the job. For me, it largely depends if I need to use my hands or not. A stationary microphone is not much use to me if I am doing a demonstration.
How I learned this: I was doing a demonstration once with a spinning bicycle tire and set it down on the stage. The tire grabbed on to my microphone cord and pulled me down to the ground a la Isadora Duncan.
Be careful how you choose your volunteers. I use volunteers a lot in my speeches and workshops. I try to treat them with dignity and respect, even though we are having fun. It is important to consider if they are the right volunteer for the job you have in mind.
How I leaned this: I chose a volunteer to come to the stage and put on some paraphanelia that was costume-like. When I got to the belt they were supposed to wear I realilzed it wasn’t going to fit their girth. Fortunately I covered up and skipped the belt because I didn’t want to embarrass the volunteer. They are in a position of trust when they work with you, presuming that you will not make them look really silly.
Use good stickies and other supplies. It can be tempting to cut corners and buy the cheaper supplies, but so often, it isn’t worth it.
I did a brainstorming session where people had to stick their ideas on little yellow stickies, stick them to the wall and then move them around. Imagine my horror when they came flying off the wall. Cheap adhesive can spell problem activity.
Always carry a bunch of extra pens.
How I learned this: When you give people handouts they need to write on, it is inevitable that someone has forgotten a pen. Why make them feel worse by having them hunt for one. Just give them one and they will be able to get on with the task at hand.
Bring an extra set of handouts. Sure, the organizers said that they would copy your handouts and have them ready. But what happens when you arrive and they never received them, thought you were handling it, or have lost them.
How I learned this: Heading up to the northern province to arrive and find out that no one had seen anything of my handouts made for a very hard session. Had I been carrying my extra set, I could have had some made. It was a long day working without them.
Learn people’s names. One of my colleagues makes it a point to learn as many names as she can before the session and she actually writes them down on a little seating chart she made. Everyone likes the sound of their own name. If you can’t get everyone’s names, get as many as you can. Nametags can be useful in the right situation.
How I learned this: By having to say “you in the green sweater” too many times. It sounds so rude to me.
Don’t just ask for questions at the end of your presentation. Sometimes that leads to deadly silence. Instead ask for questions or for people to share experiences relevant to the topic you have been speaking about.
How I learned this: I tried it. It really works. I am not sure why, but people often have more to say than they admit if you only ask them to give you questions.
Don’t obsess about one “doesn’t like me”. Sometimes in the audience there is a person who doesn’t seem happy to be there. They often have their arms crossed and shake their head from side to side in that “way”. Don’t become obsessed with winning this person over; it is not worth it.
How I learned this: I once gave a presentation on a scientific topic and there was such a man in the audience. I became terrified that he was a subject matter expert and I was totally inadequate in his eyes. I shortened my program, hedged on my facts and generally worried my way through. Afterward, he came up to me and in a broad Aussie accent, told me how much he had appreciated my talk. Lesson learned.
Remind the audience that you have a handout for them. If you don’t do this early on, they will spend time and energy writing down all the information you are about to give them on your handout. When their heads are down scribbling it can take away from the rapport you are building with them.
How I learned this: by forgetting over and over until I saw them scribbling. Now I tell them right up front.
Always arrive early. You need time to check the room, get refreshed and be ready to meet and greet.
How I learned this: By driving round and round for 30 minutes at a mall looking for a parking place, racing into the room to greet my participants who were already assembled. It all turned out just fine, but I vowed that day, that I would do everything in my power to not get into that situation again.
Sit in the audience. You need to get a feel for what the audience is going to see and hear when you speak. Spend a little time sitting in various chairs around the room to make sure everyone will be comfortable.
How I learned this: by being in an audience in which I couldn’t see the speaker. The lectern was looming in the way and all I really got to see was the back of his head.
Tape off some rows of seats. No matter how you manage it, I think it is better to help the audience to find seats together. You might try limiting the number of chairs you have in the room and have people on hand who can place other chairs out as required. You might try taping off some of the back rows if you can’t remove the chairs.
How I learned this: I was in a real theatre (stage type theatre) and realized too late that the audience was migrating to the back of the hall. I wished I had taped the seats off before that. I know I don’t like being asked to move once I have settled in to a spot.