I'm lucky. I get paid to speak at events that I used to attend. But it wasn't always that way.
Things changed when I decided that I wanted to speak at events back in 2004. I was an ambitious Director of Sales. I knew that in order for my career to keep a consistent upward trend, I needed to differentiate myself. I saw speaking at conferences as my ticket up, and it worked.
I'm going to tell you how I deliver remarkable presentations that get people talking, and wanting more.
1. Be prepared
If you don't know what you're going to speak about, you're dead in the water. Know your content inside and out. No excuses.
2. Wear clothes that fit (seriously)
This one took me a few years to figure out. Now I have my suits and shirts custom tailored. It's less expensive than you'd think. It also helps me remove any anxiety around my clothing.
How will I look? Good.
How will I feel? Good.
How will it affect me while I'm on stage? It won't. That's the idea.
3. Be aware of your body language.
Body language is a by-product of the first two items on this list. If you're prepared, you'll feel confident. If you feel confident you're posture will tell that tale. If you're clothes feel great, will you. I recommend you watch Amy Cuddy's TED talk.
Or watch this riveting TED talk that focuses on the use of the palms of your hands. Yes, seriously -- it's fascinating.
When you're on stage it will be your secret weapon. Shhh ....
4. Practice, practice, practice and then practice more.
This one took me years to figure out, but you must practice. I've given the same presentation to three people in a small classroom that I gave to 400 executives at a major conference.
Think of yourself as a comedian on the road. Use the smaller venue to work out the kinks. By the time you headline Madison Square Garden, you'll have the crowd on their feet.
5. Volunteer to speak for free.
I used to think that I had to only speak at industry related events. This is false.
When I was starting my speaking career, I let people know that I would speak for free, and do it anywhere. People need speakers for events. Get out there.
6. Use simple images in your slides.
Slides should rarely have copy. Ever. Images, images, images. I can't stress this enough. When you get good enough. Ditch the images, and tell a story. The audience will focus on you, and they'll love you for it.
7. Bring emotion.
Laughing, crying is all OK when presenting. I cried during my TEDx talk. I'm not suggesting you cry. But if you feel emotion, let it flow.
If you can make your audience feel something, then you've won.
8. Know your audience, but also know the venue.
When the audience is in dim lighting they will laugh and cry easier than if they're not. If you can help your hosts with tips like this, you'll do better.
I've delivered the same talk in a venue that was poorly lit (much too bright) and the talk fell flat. The venue matters. Lighting matters. Your microphone matters.
9. Document your speaking and review it like a football coach reviews film.
If you have the means to record your presentation, do so. Then review it. Show it to friends, family and colleagues. Ask them where you lost them? Were there dips in the energy level? Could you remove slides?
These little things will hurt at first, but you'll get more accustomed to constructive feedback the more you do it.
10. Get constructive and safe feedback.
When I first started off in Television, any appearance I made was great.
But as I did it more and more, I would tape and critique myself. I learned how to speak for TV. I asked the producers what they really wanted out of the segment and I gave it to them.
Don't be afraid to ask, and then deliver.
11. Be you.
It wasn't until years later when someone I respected was in the audience. He said to me "wow, you really channeled your inner Gary V"...I cringed.
Not what I wanted at all. So be yourself, and find your own style. You can gain inspiration from those who you admire, but you'll never deliver a great presentation if you're doing an impression of someone else.
12. Find your stories, and tell them.
This one took me many years to perfect. Here's a fact: you can tell a complicated business story, or you can tell a beautiful personal story to articulate the same point.
Which do you think will be more enjoyable for your audience to hear? Tell that one.
13. Become a slave to the story.
If you want to call that personal brand building - fine.
But if people leave and decide to create something, and share it with the world -- I've won. So every word that comes out of my mouth while I'm on stage serves that one mission. Find your story, and stick to it.
14. Get personal and let your guard down.
I find that the more personal I get the better. If I genuinely laugh on stage, laughter comes. If I cry, we're all crying together. This connection with the audience is infectious.
It took me years to get here. Don't force it.
15. Never force laughter or emotion.
I was recently in the audience with a client of mine. He's a brilliant speaker. But he was in a small venue with poor lighting, and the crowd went a bit silent on him. So he was seeking validation that what he was saying was working.
He wanted to get some sort of reaction from them.
He told a joke.
Huge mistake. It fell flat, and the audience cringed. Don't force it. Ever.
16. Don't rely on your slides.
I'm not suggesting that you don't present with slides. What I'm suggesting is that you know your content so well that If you slides blow up, and the world implodes you should still be able to speak about your topic for an hour.
That's how good you have to get, and how well you need to know your information. Your slides will blow up, and you will have to do this at some point (if you're out there speaking enough). It's happened to me numerous times.
17. Provide some data, but don't get hung up on it.
Your audience is smart. They also don't want a college lecture. They want you to have done the work for them, and tell a story.
Social media is big? Great. We know that. Now what do we do with that information?
I used to present statistics on the size of social media sites, and the impact of LinkedIn or Vlogging on Youtube. Now I present one simple statistics slide. Simple. Now it's up to me to back it up with factual stories.
18. Self deprecation is fine, but don't over do it.
You're the expert. If you self deprecate too much you'll have the audience thinking, "Why should I pay attention to this person?"
19. Self aggrandizement will fall flat.
Let the host of your event do that for you. Provide them with a short and simple bio. People will pay attention to you. You're on stage and speaking.
By default, they will know you're the expert. No need to pound your chest while on stage.
20. Make people a bit uncomfortable.
When you're speaking you need to address a problem. Suggest a compelling and within reach solution, and tell the audience what they should do next.
Describing how they'll be better off after they take action is the bow on your presentation gift. Otherwise all you've done is sharing some nice stories. If they don't take action, you've failed.
What did I miss? Find me here, and let me know.