BANG! The screen went dark and my presentation style changed forever.
That was 15 years ago. I was a prolific public speaker. Speaking at conferences all over the UK and in Europe.
I’ve been getting back into speaking in a big way in the last 18 months after taking a break for a few years. In 2017, people have enjoyed my “Fighting Complexity in Marketing” talk at CMA Live in Edinburgh, Talking Point of Business in Newcastle and Network 2.0 in Montenegro. It’s an exciting time.
But two experiences in my speaking career profoundly changed the way I present now. The day the projector lamp went “BANG” and World Class Communication (WCCLive) with Marcus Sheridan.
An annual 2-day event in Edinburgh, WCCLive helps speakers develop, improve and become, literally, world class. In fairness, it’s not just an event for speakers. WCCLive can help you in all areas of communication. Workshops. Managing staff. Team meetings. Even how you communicate with friends and family.
This week organiser, Chris Marr, and Marcus invited me back to WCCLive as a guest to share my experiences. I stood in front of the students, in the incredible Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh and told them my story.
I started by asking them what is the first thing they do when asked to put together a presentation?
One person said they panic!
Another told of how he draws a mind map.
Other said they moved their mouse pointer towards PowerPoint.
That was me 15 years ago.
Death by PowerPoint
If my boss came over and said, “I need you to put together a presentation on the top 5 advantages of our product line”, I’d click on PowerPoint.
If someone asked me to deliver a speech at a local business event, I’d go straight to PowerPoint.
It’s what most people do first. Is that your experience too?
It doesn’t help that bosses often say something like, “Can you put a deck together on the top advantages of our product line.” Asking for decks reinforces the perception presentations start with PowerPoint.
Once in PowerPoint I’d build a load of slides.
Heading. Bullet point. Bullet point. Bullet point.
I was the Master of PowerPoint. I took death by PowerPoint to the next level. Genocide by PowerPoint you might say.
I’d turn up at gigs and the AV guy would say, “Have you really got 180 slides?”.
I said, “Yes.”
He said, “But you only have 20 minutes.”
I said, “I talk fast”.
Despite the piles of slides, people told me they liked my speeches.
But then, “BANG” everything changed.
I shared with the WCCLive students the 3 phases of my speaking career.
Phase one was the PowerPoint Phase.
When everything started with the slides.
Then one day I was speaking at a major financial services event. They’d pre-loaded their laptop with my epic presentation. I’d also take my own laptop along as a back-up. And I had the presentation on a CD-ROM as well. Just in case.
Yes. A CD-ROM. A time before USB sticks.
It was one of those conferences with different rooms for different sessions.
About 75 delegates sat waiting for me to begin. The room host gave the audience a little background and then introduced me.
As I opened my mouth to start I heard that “BANG”.
The bulb in the project blew.
The screen went dark.
The AV Guy was panic-stricken. They had no spares. Their laptop, my laptop and my CD-ROM were all useless.
I had no choice.
I did the presentation without slides.
No prompts. No graphs. No pictures. No words. No bullet points. Nothing.
Fortunately, I did know my material. It felt weird but strangely liberating to improvise. After an unsteady first few minutes, I hit a confident stride.
At the end, they gave me a standing ovation. I guess they were impressed I managed to talk for 45 minutes without PowerPoint.
How do you think I felt at the end of that presentation?
Here’s the thing. It was one of those conferences where the delegates go from one room to the next.
A round robin.
I had to do the presentation 3 more times. Without slides!
Each one was better than the last.
For me, that marked the end of my PowerPoint era.
Next came my scripting era.
I’d write out each talk. Fresh each time. Of course, I might copy and paste some stories. And then I’d do a few slides, mainly pictures, to back up the stories. But I never relied on the slides ever again.
The third era of my speaking career started 2 years ago the first time I went to WCCLive and he taught me about segments.
WCCLive created learning overload. There was the “Columbus Principle” – the skill of using questions to get your audience to find the answers themselves. The improvisation technique of, “Yes…and” to deal with mishaps, questions and unexpected situations.
Segments was the game changer for me. Those of you who know me, know I hate jargon and management speak. People overuse the term, “Game changer”. But learning about segments was a game changer for me.
Power of Segments
Marcus teaches segments. Rather than writing whole presentations create a series of segments. And when someone asks you to put together a full presentation simple construct it from the most relevant segments in your segment locker.
The key to each segment is the story.
I’ve always littered my presentations with stories. Always believed stories are the best way to engage an audience. But until WCCLive, I’ve never thought about them in the context of segments before.
Marcus divides a segment into 4 blocks.
- A question.
- A story.
- The result.
- Call to action.
It’s so simple. You can use this structure for presentations, webinars, Facebook Live videos, pre-recorded videos, anything.
Now when someone asks me to speak – what do I do?
Reach for PowerPoint?
I start with the message I want my audience to learn.
Then I pluck one or a few segments from my segment rack.
And there is my speech.
Now it’s your turn:
If you’d like to book me to speak at your event please have a look at my speaker page.I’d love to bring my “Fighting Complexity in Marketing” keynote to your event.