Wow, It’s Not Easy Being a Presenter

November 5th, 2008

Marshall Speaking at Small Biz Tech Summit 2008I had the honor and pleasure to be a speaker at the Small Biz Summit 2008. It was a great opportunity to be on the other end of the slides. It’s been awhile since I was a speaker and not the speaker support person or on the speaker support team. I was speaking on a panel on how to transform your business. The panel presented 40 tips in 40 minutes. I had 10 minutes for my 10 tips.

I had ten plus weeks to prepare. I started thinking about it maybe ten weeks ago, but didn’t dive into it seriously until maybe 10 days ago. We were supposed to have the slides finalized and to the event producer 14 days ago. I’m so used to most of eSlide’s clients giving us slides for their presentation the day before they present, I thought 14 days in advance was silly. But it wasn’t.

My own process for developing a presentation is to create a short outline put it into PowerPoint, start thinking of some good visuals and then start writing the script. I only needed about 12 slides. How difficult can that be? I’ve been developing slides for people for 20 years.

The first version of the outline was easy. I pulled a few slides from one of my previous presentations. That only covered me for three tips. Seven more to go. It was easy, I could think of 70 tips but I only had 10 minutes. I made my intro slide, agenda slide and mock-ups of my ten tips. I did a rough draft run through. It was way too long. Edit, cut and slash down to 10 minutes. I developed a rough script to go in the notes of each slide then worked on a template for the slide using the Event Summit Logo. I then started on the slides. It took maybe 4-6 hours to put the slides together. I had to search and find royalty free images on iStock photo. Some of the images needed some Photoshop editing.

I started at around 9pm one night (when I got home from work) and stopped around 1am because I had to be up at 5am to catch my ferry in the morning. I snuck in another hour or two during the day then finished the first final draft that night. I did a run through with my Event speaker panel partners with the first draft, and realized I still had a lot of script editing and a few slide edits to make.

A Final show deck was to be emailed to the event manager by Monday. I spent an hour or two polishing it up over the weekend along with another practice run through. It was still way too long and had plenty to cut to get it under 10 minutes. I asked one of the presentation design pros at eSlide to give it a final quick check and polish before sending it off to the show AV Manager. I was now locked into the slides that I was going to use. I had six days fine tune the script and practice. It was a busy week with little time to devote to my own presentation, besides I had all weekend. The weekend came.

I was not scheduled to be on-call with our emergency pager, but somehow I had the pager for the weekend. Client weekend presentation emergencies started at 8am Saturday morning and went until 9 or 10pm. They started again at 8am Sunday morning. The client interruptions were less on Sunday so I did get to practice the presentation about 10 times. Yes, ten times! I recorded it on Camtasia. Reviewed and edited to make it shorter and smoother. I had it down to 8 minutes. The recording sounded pretty good. I was wondering if I could just bring the MP3 file and plug it into the audio system and lip sync the presentation since I was still far from being able to memorize or do it without notes. When I tried it without notes, I ran too long and got tongue tied on some of the key phrases. So I decided I would use notes.

It was 11pm when I decided it was time to sleep vs. giving a speech while sleep deprived. I was going to have to catch an early train, since the weather prediction was to be so cold and windy in the morning, I was afraid the ice covered ferry might not run on time or run at all. The early train I caught ran late because of frozen equipment problems. It gave me plenty of time to read over and listen to my MP3 recording played from my Treo cell phone (or my “pocket computer”).

I arrived at the hotel. Checked my coat and immediately checked out the ballroom where the meeting was going to take place. It was a good setup, although there was only a cue light remote vs. a computer remote, which means the AV tech is in control of your slides. I prefer to click my own slides, especially for smooth build transitions. This added a bit to my pre-speech nerves, not being in control of my own slide clicks. I’ve read plenty about it being fine to have butterflies, just as long as you get them to fly to your advantage and use the energy positively or something like that. I’ve presented many times before trying different anxiety reducing techniques. I’ve read the book “I Can See you Naked” that tells you to imagine the audience to be naked. Although there have been some audiences that would scare me and make me very anxious even more, if I imagined them naked. The best presentation anxiety reduction practice, is being well prepared, know your audience, know your content, and practice!

Presentation time, 10am rolled around quickly and then it was like being on auto-pilot. I knew I prepared, I practiced, I could probably wing it without my notes but I would go with the plan and use my scripted notes. It was now in the hands of the presentation gods. Laura Allan spoke first about her 15second pitch.com. She seemed to make talking about her 15 second pitch for ten minutes very easy. Now it was my turn for 10 minutes of fun or torture.
It was mostly fun and a little torture. I think I suffered a bit of the deer caught in the headlight syndrome. I’m sure if I talked too fast and relied on looking at my notes way too much. The ten minutes went by in a minute. All the planning, production, and practice over in a very fast 10 minutes. And it’s done. As I said in my presentation . . . present your best, you only get one shot.

Thankfully, I had plenty of people telling me they enjoyed the presentation. Overall it was a great opportunity to be on the other side of the slides and I always enjoy talking about my passionate belief that good visuals can always enhance meeting communications. I look forward to doing it again, but next time more practice and no notes.

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