Today's post is by Matt Heinz, president and founder of Heinz Marketing. Join him at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on July 18 and 19, where he will present “How to Double Your Sales Team’s Productivity and Active Selling Time.”
I’ve attended many industry events and seen some amazing speakers. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen plenty of speakers who simply bring their “zero” game with them – they’re uninterested, unengaged, pitchy, and worse.
What separates the great speakers from those who are immediately forgettable?
Here are 24 tips for presentation success based on my experience as an audience member at industry events, and one tip based on my own personal experience speaking onstage.
- Use a Proven Icebreaker to Get the Audience Engaged (and Laughing)
Start with a joke or anecdote – something to get your audience’s attention immediately and break the ice. To make sure it’ll work, test the story or joke with another audience (employees, colleagues, etc.) before you get on stage.
- Talk in Stories
Tell stories about your customers – the issues and problems they wrestled and overcame. Stories can be incredibly engaging – especially if they include the three essential elements of Problem, Struggle, and Solution.
- Use a Thematic Analogy to Make Your Points
One particularly effective speaker I remember from a past Sales 2.0 event used basketball to make several points during a brilliant keynote. He spoke about sales coaching best practices, and, to outline problems in current sales coaching environments, he used such phrases such as, “Too many big games, not enough practice” and, “Too much defense, not enough offense.” His points were immediately clear.
- Talk and Present in Tweetable Formats
Use succinct statistics, share points in threes, and predetermine statements in 100 characters or less. Make it easy for the audience to tweet and retweet your content to ensure your message resonates across the social Web and well beyond the room.
- Give Attending Press/Bloggers a Copy of Tweetable Comments in Advance
At many conferences, trade press, bloggers, and tweeters are scattered throughout the crowd. If they had a list of tweetable primary points before the keynote, I bet that content would get exponential play (hat tip to fellow Sales 2.0 Conference speaker @annekeseley for this one).
- Present the Problem, Not the Solution (i.e., Ditch the Pitch)
I know we’ve been saying to “ditch the pitch” for a long time, but it’s clearly still alive and well (unfortunately). You don’t have to walk me through your entire solution if you prove to me that you understand the problem. Focusing on the problem – breaking down why it exists and how people are addressing it – demonstrates your subject matter expertise and thought leadership. It makes me want to get to know you and your product more after the presentation.
Specific Advice Based on Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s Dreamforce Keynotes
- Mixing It Up
A three-hour keynote sounds awful (if, in fact, it’s literally three hours of someone speaking from behind a podium. But Marc mixes it up – you’ll hear him speak for a while, then he’ll play a video, then call a customer up on stage for a quick Q&A, then ask one of his managers to give a demo, etc. Not 10 minutes go by without something new to watch. It’s a great way to keep the audience continually engaged, especially for a long-form keynote like this one.
One year the Dreamforce keynote opened with a performance by MC Hammer. In a previous year, Neil Young was in the audience and did a quick Q&A. Every year, Marc features some surprises that keep people guessing.
- Customer Focus
Benioff is fanatical about his customers, and it shows in his keynotes. He fawns over them, telling their success stories as his own. Even the product demos are shared in the context of how a successful customer is leveraging the new technology.
Marc practices, of course, but you can also tell he really means it. Some long-time Dreamforce attendees joke that his frequent use of the word “amazing” would make a great drinking game. And, although they’re right, he really loves what he does, loves his customers, and loves the stage – and that authentic enthusiasm makes an impact.
- Talk about the Future
Again, the cynics will call it vaporware. But Marc has evolved to the point where it’s not enough to just hear him talk about what’s happening now. His customers and followers want to hear him talk about the future. And he delivers.
Specific Advice from Andrew Davis
The night before he spoke at last year’s 6Sense InMarket Conference, Andrew and I shared a drink at the pre-event networking event. Thirty minutes before he took the stage, I saw him pacing in the back of the room. The second he took the stage, he lit the room on fire. His presence and energy – the way he physically owned the stage – was impressive. You could see cell phones being put down, people leaning in. His energy earned everyone’s immediate attention.
Some speakers talk too fast and it’s a distraction from their message. With Andrew, his speed amplified his effect and impact. For 30 minutes, he didn’t let up. He knew his content cold and he followed his presentation and visuals without leaning on them like a crutch. He had clearly prepared, clearly practiced, and that allowed him to leverage his energy and speed as an asset on stage.
In another life, Andrew could do stand-up. He’s hilarious. If his “between points” remarks on stage are rehearsed, he’s even more polished than I thought. If they aren’t, his quick wit and sense of humor are seriously on point. Great speakers keep your attention through a variety of means, but humor – genuine, authentic, spontaneous humor – works every time.
- Talk in Tweets
Most speakers ignore this opportunity. Others oversaturate their audience. Some of the best? They do it subtly, without calling attention to those tweetable moments. They’re less frequent but incredibly powerful. Things like, “What if your moment of inspiration is tied to your prospect’s aspirations?” and, “I know the ending of your case studies. What if I didn’t? Wouldn’t that be more interesting?”
- No PowerPoint
Every time I’ve seen Andrew present, he’s used Prezi. I’ve never been courageous enough to do that, but the format allows him to present visuals as an aid and augmentation to his presentation, not as the foundation. Great speakers know that their best impact comes from what they say, not what their slides say.
- A Call to Action
At the end of the presentation, literally the last words Andrew said before the crowd erupted in applause were: “You’ve been ‘Drewed.’” Simultaneously, the URL www.youvebeendrewed.com appeared on screen. It stayed there during the brief Q&A. The site is a clever combination of highlights from Drew, information about how to hire him at your next event, and an individual attendee subscription to receive his content periodically. Well done.
Specific Advice from Jeffrey Hayzlett
- Speak in “Tweetable” Moments
Many speakers don’t like their audience to tweet while they present, as they fear it takes their attention away. Hayzlett, whom I saw speak at previous Sales 2.0 Conferences, knows the opposite – that encouraging his audience to tweet, in fact, is the best option to increase the impact of his words and exposure beyond the room. He not only encourages tweets but set up a few in advance to post – timed roughly to what he was talking about on stage. And he was smart enough to fill his slides with short, impactful messages and statistics that were perfect for 140 words or less. As a result, he generated massive Twitter volume during his one-hour keynote.
- Give It Everything You’ve Got
Jeffrey yells. He stomps around. He’s extremely animated. When you watch Hayzlett talk, it’s truly a performance. He gives everything he’s got. Clearly this is part of his personality, but it also makes him a highly entertaining and dynamic presenter. It makes him memorable, which means more events and conferences will want him to lend that impact to their agendas as well.
- Tell Stories
Hayzlett makes numerous points during his keynotes, but he brings each of those points to life with at least one story. He’s a master storyteller (the energy he brings is a huge part of that), and he’s able to keep his audience engaged not by sharing statistics and bullet points but by telling stories that take on a life of their own.
- Swear a Little
OK, so maybe Jeffrey let fly a couple too many f-bombs. But, for someone with his personality, there’s something about a well-placed cuss word that lends credibility to your story. Not everybody can pull it off, but it’s clearly one of his secrets to keeping his audience richly engaged and satisfied.
- Have a Back Story (Be a Brand)
Hayzlett is from South Dakota. He calls himself a “CMO Cowboy." He talks extensively about his experience with horses. Some say the story that comes with him is fed by his ego, but I think it’s a carefully-crafted part of his own story, his own brand, that only increases his draw.
- Be Accessible Afterwards
Most speakers disappear back into the green room as soon as they’re done, never to be seen again. Hayzlett often mingles with the crowd. He signs copies of his book. He might not do that every time, but even just doing a little of it makes him feel that much more accessible, which does even more to add to his popularity and pass-along potential.
- Give Something Away
This tip comes from my own speaking experience. Recently, when giving presentations at conferences, I have offered my homemade smoked bacon recipe. It’s been a hit, and a great ice-breaker not only at the start of the presentation, but also with attendees afterward.