Want to know a not-so-well-kept secret? I’m a “Dancing with the Stars” junkie. If you have yet to watch this hugely popular TV show, give it a try — it’s pure entertainment.
But what does a show about ballroom dancing have to do with giving a presentation? Everything! You see, both are live performances with high stakes. And just like DWTS contestants must both rehearse and mentally prepare for their performances each week, you should have a similar “ritual” to get ready for each and every presentation.
Lessons in becoming more memorable
Even if you’ve a crafted a wonderfully compelling story, effectiveness as a presenter is all in the telling. To ensure that your message sticks with your audience long after you’ve left the stage, try this effective five-step pre-performance ritual:
1. Rehearse aloud.
Like DWTS’ intensive dance rehearsals, now’s the time to work out any kinks. And the only way to be sure your content and delivery truly “work” is to practice aloud. Eliminate words you find hard to pronounce, determine pacing, and find where to pause or add emphasis. Recognize that a great deal of editing and rewriting can take place during your rehearsals.
2. Scout your stage by arriving early.
My suggestion? Plan to arrive at the venue at least 30 minutes prior to your scheduled start time. Get comfortable, familiarize yourself with the room, test any equipment and troubleshoot any logistical problems. Check out this logistics checklist for more tips.
3. Meet and greet.
As people arrive, circulate and introduce yourself to members of your audience. It’s the equivalent of DWTS competitors working the crowd and winning fans before they take the stage. Try to find out a little bit about attendees and their interest in your topic. This way, you’re gazing at familiar faces while you talk, and can use their names or reference their anecdotal comments as appropriate. This alone will help keep your audience alert and plugged in.
4. Practice the introduction.
Seek out the person who will be introducing you. Making a personal connection can transform a boring recitation of facts and figures into a friendly, engaging introduction that sets you up for success. I always ask the person who is introducing me to wait for me on the dais so I can shake his or her hand and have a “warm” hand-off.
5. Lights, camera, action!
You are “on” from the moment you’re introduced, so approach the podium with a confident stride and shake hands with your introducer. But remember, your audience is not quite ready for you to jump into your presentation — even if you’re having an adrenaline rush. Before you say a word, take a breath, look out and smile. Those few seconds allow everyone to settle down, change gears and prepare for your presentation.
Whether waltzing on national television or presenting last quarter’s sales figures, all performers have one thing in common — when the lights go on, they must be ready to give it their all. By integrating these five steps into your preparation ritual, you’ll handle the podium as gracefully as the stars handle the dance floor.
Season 17 just started! Be sure to catch DWTS on Monday nights and see what you can learn!