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Present Like a Rockstar

Present Like a Rockstar

At Video on the Net in San Jose this past March, I was standing beside Brian Conley, the man behind the popular internet TV show, Alive in Baghdad. Brian’s a slender man, with glasses, and comes off as quiet until you know him. Just before going onstage, he turns to me and says, “Do you think they’ll get mad at me if I kick over the podium?”

Presenting can be scary to many people, and for others, it comes quiet naturally, but even the best presenters have to break free from their “tried and true” methods and shake up their audience. You know who understands this very well? You know who can change up their act and get people moving? Rockstars!

Disclosure: I wrote about this way back in February 2006, too. Guess it’s on my mind again.

Make First Contact With Emotions

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When you go to a concert, bands are pushing your emotion button even before they get onstage. When the auditorium goes dark, your heart races a little. When the lights start flashing and the curtain raises, you feel your adrenalin start to flow. All this before the first note of the first song.

In the amazing-yet-simple book, MADE TO STICK, the Heath brothers remind us that pretty much any topic can be discussed from the angle of how it impacts humans. Reach for that. Look for the best way to connect what you’re discussing with the humans in the audience. And use a HUMAN perspective, no matter the topic. Humans are at the root of most things you’re going to present about. Right?

Play Favorites

When a band’s been around a while, they get the benefit of playing audience favorites and still having enough material to stretch their show. What makes playing the favorites so great? People CONNECT to them.

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In your presentation, talk from the perspective of what your audience wants to hear most. Lead with the good stuff. Give them something juicy to think about, and then build on it. Only in fiction (novels, plays, movies) is keeping someone in the dark desirable. In presentations, people need to feel “in” and they want you to let them in right up front.

Kick Over the Podium

Watch any live concert performance and you know when the audience goes CRAZY. It’s when the band moves out into the audience in any manner that breaks the “fourth wall” between band and crowd. When the singer or a guitarist hurls themselves into the fray to connect physically with their audience, it always pays off in even stronger attention. (I was once at a New Year’s gig where The Mighty Mighty Bosstones invited the entire audience up on stage with them. Hazard? Yes. Memorable? YES!)

Unless it’s ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, get out from behind the podium. Move. If it’s a big venue and you need a mic, ask about wireless way ahead of time. Most professional events will have them. They may not WANT to rig for that, but hey. It’s your presentation. If that’s the hardest challenge you’ll put them through, they’ll be lucky. And once you’re out from behind that podium, what should you do? Make eye contact. Pretend everyone in the audience helped with your presentation, and talk conversationally with them about the points you’re making.

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Wave Those Lighters

Rock concerts are fraught with audience participation. The best of them make the people in the crowd feel like part of the band. The worst make you flip the band the bird. “I can’t hear you” is not audience participation.

Getting your audience to react and act is more than “show of hands” tricks. There are all kinds of ways. A fun one I’ve seen and like emulating is when a presenter prints out nice high-color versions of their slides (should you choose to use them) with numbers on the back (1, 2, 3). Then, when you’re ready for the next slide, get the audience to hold them up and present them. Ask questions that aren’t just hand-waving questions. (Be wary of presentation-hijackers, but otherwise, this makes for good theater).

There are dozens more ways to hack this. Just think it through. How can people interact with your presentation? Do you have data? Is there a physical representation of the data that would look striking in the audience?

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Go Home Singing

After every good rock concert, if you’re like me, you sing badly mangled versions of what you just heard onstage while driving home. Rockstars want that desperately. They want to be in your head after you’ve left them. They want you to carry the experience off to others so they grow their fan base.

Do the same with your presentation. Give people something to remember. Give them a striking visual, an interesting turn of phrase, an emotionally-charged moment that hooks together the entire presentation. The best presentations are the ones people talk about days after the fact. Is that YOUR presentation? Do you give them something to sing?

You’re the Rockstar

I know you. Some of you sell out arenas with your presentations (even if only in your heads). You’ve got better ideas than mine. Why not share them? Fill this comment section with YOUR tips on being a rockstar presenter. Tell me I’m full of crap. Give me an anecdote from the best performance…er, presentation you ever gave, attended, or heard about from someone after the fact. It’s how we grow.

Chris Brogan keeps a blog at [chrisbrogan.com]. He presents at events like Video on the Net and PodCamp

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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