My wife and I spent last weekend in Nashville where our son lives. We had a Sunday Fun-Day, hitting different bars and restaurants around town listening to music.
After seeing six or seven different performers and duos a couple of parallels emerged between performers and business presenters.
- When the spotlight shines on you, you have to be ready to shine too.
- Just get going!
They use a spotlight for a reason. It shows people where to look. Audiences don’t want to look at someone who looks uncomfortable. The more comfortable you look in the spotlight, the more comfortable the audience feels. And the more comfortable the audience feels, the more enjoyment everyone gets out of the experience.
How to Look More Comfortable
Here’s a trick I learned years ago as an intern at a TV station in Miami. I knew TV anchors looked comfortable sitting under the lights and I knew I didn’t. So After the 11 pm news every night—for months—I would have my friend who was the floor director, turn on the studio lights and I would sit on the anchor desk and practice reading the scripts in an empty studio in front of cameras that weren’t on.
By the time I anchored my first sportscast, I still felt plenty nervous but I looked fairly comfortable because I had spent hours in that environment.
Too many presenters see the front of the room for the first time when their presentation begins. Big mistake.
Practice In Front of the Room
Put some time in front of an empty room—ideally the room where you’ll give the presentation. Practice while standing in front of the room.
Get used to what the room looks like from that perspective. You’ll still feel a level of anxiety before your presentation, but you won’t look as uncomfortable as people who are seeing the front of the room for the first time.
Here’s an axiom I believe in. The easier something looks, the harder someone has worked on it.
Country music singers look so comfortable sitting in the spotlight playing and singing because they do it over and over and over. Sometimes they do it in front of fairly empty rooms. But the more empty rooms you play too, the more comfortable you will look in front of a packed house.
Just Get Going
I enjoyed watching new acts come up to the various stages. I noticed some performers hemmed and hawed and struggled to get going. They talked at length—rambled is more like it. And the longer they talked about what they were going to play or why they like a particular song, the antsier the audience got.
The better performers just got in front of the spotlight and started playing. Then after three or four songs, they might begin to talk to the audience.
The better performers understood why the audience came in the first place—to hear music, not a monologue.
And once those performers could show how well they could play, then the audience was more open to listening to anything they had to say.
Lose the Preamble
Too many business presenters start with a long pre-amble: “Hi, it’s great to be with you all today. Thanks so much for inviting me here to present to you on the blah, blah, blah.”
Get rid of the preamble.
Just get going.
Audiences connect more to performers and presenters who just get going. Don’t tell me what you’re going to do or going to say or a funny story you want to tell me. Just tell me.
Just get going.
If you do those two things:
- Just get going
- Look comfortable when the spotlight is on you
Then your next presentation may not win you a Grammy, but it will likely win over your audience and isn’t that why you walked to the front of the room in the first place?