The secrets of a business person achieving a degree of ‘sizzle’ should they find themselves on a stage do not lie simply in adopting a few techniques from the world of showbiz. You need to start with the firm foundations of planning, construction and, above all, being yourself. Then, and only then, can you gain any real benefit from adding a little ‘stardust’ – methods deployed by showmen.
At first sight these techniques might appear every bit as mundane as all that planning and construction, but don’t be put off – this is the way to Sizzle Street!
1) Always get yourself an introduction – and tell the person introducing you what you want them to say about you. This tip comes from the late Bob Monkhouse, who said that a good introduction focuses attention and frames you up – in a way that is much more effective than making claims about yourself. It is essential, however, that the brief for the introduction comes from you. Otherwise, it could be inappropriate or inaccurate. Perhaps worst of all, they might steal your thunder by mentioning a key fact or anecdote you are about to deploy yourself.
2) Come straight to the point – tell them what you are going to tell them so that they are fully focused on you and your message from the off.
3) Use a little more energy upfront than seems completely natural. This will set up ‘bounce back’ emotions between yourself and your audience. Also be sure to have a smile on your face – it will be heard in your voice as well as giving you a boost visually.
4) Keep close eye contact throughout, and especially a) as you open and seek you engage your audience and b) as you close with your Call to Action in which you are probably asking for something.
5) Know what you are going to say! Blindingly obvious, but it’s the way in which business presenters most frequently let themselves down. This is especially important as you open and close – aside from the need to look confident, you can’t be looking down at notes during those key moments for eye contact. If you really don’t have time to rehearse properly (NB no actor would go on stage without rehearsal) then at least get your opening and closing word-perfect.
6) Make your delivery conversational – then crank it up a couple of notches in terms of a) clarity and b) forthrightness. Remember that they can’t rewind or turn back a page if they were unsure about something you said.
7) Keep focusing on your audience’s favourite subject – themselves. What can you do to personalise your messages to them, so multiplying the engagement factor?
8) Build in an element that you know you are going to enjoy presenting. The anticipation in itself will give you a boost; then you will handle this element brilliantly and bask in the glory thereafter.
9) Let a little light in on yourself by revealing something about your private life. This will make your audience warm to you, and you will become all the more convincing as a result.
10) Do something unexpected – ideally at an early stage. This will mark you out as different and the audience will remain on the edge of their seats wondering what might be coming next.
If you employ a few of these techniques you will soon realise that being ‘on stage’ is not necessarily such a big deal as people tend to perceive. Indeed, you may even discover that it can actually be rather easier than facing an audience just the other side of the boardroom table.
Written by Nick Fitzherbert, our Presentation Skills expert