So you've been asked to give a talk. Maybe it's a creative design pitch. Maybe a lunch-and-learn to educate clients. Maybe you're giving an update to shareholders. You've got a lot of material to cover and it's all feeling a little overwhelming.
You stare at your slides and think "What do I say?"
This question is where a lot of talks go wrong. Speakers dive in, putting content on slides, focusing on what they know and are comfortable explaining to a room full of people. Suddenly you've got a deck of slides, hundreds of bullet points, and it still feels dry or incomplete.
Before You Start, Clarify Your Message
Before diving in, take a minute to consider your message and your purpose. Who are you talking to? What do they need to know? What is most important to them?
Even if you're putting together a talk about a new product or service, you wouldn't deliver it in exactly the same way to your sales team as you would to prospective customers or clients. This may seem self-evident, and yet how often have you been to a talk where someone brings up a slide and says, "Oh, this isn't important for you guys to know."? Recycling content not meant for their target audience is one of the biggest mistakes a speaker can make.
Oh Western Union Man...
Send a telegram to my baby, this is all I want you to say... - Diana Ross
Let's take this a step further. If your audience walked away with just one or two memorable pieces of information, what would that be? I often like to play a little game called 'Telegram' with my clients. In case you need a refresher on what telegrams are - they're basically emails where you need to pay per word. Very cost prohibitive for average folks back in the day. So...the game goes like this - Imagine you need to distill your message down to 1 or 2 very short sentences - could you do it? Give it a try.
Make Your Audience Feel Something
At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel. - Maya Angelou
Now that you've got a very clear sense of where you're going, it's time to take this to the next level by focusing on how you want your audience to feel.
It's okay if every person in the room doesn't remember the third bullet point on slide #12. But if they remember your humour, your heart, or the commitment with which you spoke, they're more likely to reach out to you for more information, or tell other people about your work.
As you're planning your talk, remember that you're there to do more than relay facts and figures. You're there to tell a story that resonates with your audience on an emotional level. If you find opportunities to do that, you'll win over the room, and make a hard talk look easy.