Know your audience well to keep them captivated
Public presentations are often a source of stress, especially sales pitches in front of a “panel of judges.” Making these presentations on Teams or Zoom tends to amplify the discomfort, especially when the clients have the bright idea of turning off all their cameras as a sign of encouragement.
You don’t have to rouse the troops like Aragorn to sell in public or in front of a group. There’s a much easier method that’s very effective: knowing your audience well.
Conduct your own investigation
Social networks are a window into the details of our lives. Put on your private detective hat and learn as much as you can about the people whom you’re going to speak to. Ask them questions individually beforehand by email or on the phone. If all else fails, conduct a “survey” at the start of your pitch. Note that it’s easier to ask closed-ended questions when addressing a group. For example, “What are your expectations?” will be less effective than “How many of you care about…?”
Why are you there? And why are they there?
Try to find out what made them come. Did they have a choice? Did someone advise them or recommend your presentation? Then ask yourself if what you’re going to present will make a real impact on them and be of value to them. Liven things up a bit, be yourself, and surprise them with your answers. Wake them up! Like Will McAvoy in the TV show The Newsroom. During the middle of a roundtable discussion, the anchor from a US news channel explains to a young student why America is no longer the greatest country in the world. It’s a cult scene from an incredibly cult show.
Think about what will really interest them. If they don’t care about what you say, you have little chance of getting them on board. Start your presentation with a personal story. Sometimes it’s hard to remember what was said, but it’s almost impossible to forget what we feel. Maintain eye contact with your audience. If you did you homework on your subject, you’ve mastered it, so show that to your audience. Occupy the space around you and keep on moving throughout. If you show slides, remember to hide them when you’re speaking so that you’re the center of attention. Watch Al Pacino and listen to what he says. He talks about himself, telling anecdotes about his past mistakes. His delivery of the speech is magisterial. The players are pumped up after he talks. How couldn’t they be?
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