Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to give a keynote presentation at Simon Fraser University’s Backpack to Briefcase (B2B) conference. I was riffing on career planning and development from the inside out: building self-awareness, using mindfulness to tap into your heart-center and quiet the monkey mind, figuring out what feels good and then identifying what things about a job–any job!—would foster those feelings.
It was good fun, and my own little heart-center was further filled up by the feedback I received from some of the participants afterward. And, of course, there were also things I learned from the event, which I want to share here to hopefully help you next time you find yourself at the microphone.
Ask the organizers if they have done a full demo. By this, I mean checking that everything is in reach and/or properly placed when there’s a live person at the podium. I was the first person to speak that day. I took video of my presentation, and through this discovered that the podium was a tad too close to the projector. Any time I stood more than six inches back from the microphone, I had projector light on my head, and a blob of my head in the corner of the screen. And if any of you refer to the sheer size of my head in the comments below, I will… I will… I will back you up on that observation.
Make big notes. PowerPoint is great for making slides, but it offers no options for how you can print those slides with your notes on the bottom. Hence, your notes might be too small. I found I spent too much time looking down, trying to find my place in my notes (and I didn’t even have that many!). Next time, I’ll create my speaking notes in an entirely separate document, and do like Benjamin Netanyahu with the big freaking font (photo here).
Consider the room configuration. When the room is wide, and people are panned out in front of you from one edge to the other, they have a better chance of seeing your facial expressions and picking up on your energy. If the room is long and narrow, you need to be extra animated because the people at the back can be pretty far away. Emote for them. Don’t worry about overdoing it for the people in the front. They’ll survive.
Keep your energy up through the slide transitions. It’s great to have all kinds of fun and energy during the main speaking points on the slide, but do you have a segue planned to carry you into the next slide? I noticed that I sometimes “petered out” at the end of a slide, letting my energy lag, and therefore, letting the energy in the room lag. My solution: don’t over-think it, just go!
Limit your repeat words and comfy-slipper-fallback phrases. Overuse creates a verbal pattern that starts to sound boring to the listener. I kept saying “so be aware of that.” The more I said it, the more it stuck out. Plus, its repetition took away from the impact of the words before it.
No matter the topic, work in some really personal stuff. I was talking about career development, and so used a lot of examples from my own career. That didn’t stop me from working in a brief story about my mum and two slides with my pug Yolanda on them. Interestingly, those are the times when I felt the MOST connective energy in the room. Personal stories foster an empathy and openness that will make your audience more receptive to the other things you have to say.
Do you have any tips or funny anecdotes to add from your own experience?