Whenever you give a presentation, or talk, your introduction has to give the audience a reason to listen more and, like you know, first impressions aren’t always fair. Maybe you walk into the room with a coffee stain on your shirt because somebody spilled his coffee on your shirt and you don’t have another shirt with you. People can think you’re a slob but how could they know this wasn’t your fault? If you’re having trouble starting up your computer or connecting it to the beamer, that doesn’t look good either. This tells us that with entrance you have to make sure your first impression is positive in everything.

After the first impression you should tell the audience what they can expect, and what they should not expect. If you’re going to talk about ERP projects and you are not going to cover Oracle, make this clear at the start, otherwise some people will be left disappointed. Oh yes, one other thing: set positive expectations!

Total mind freeze

Ok. So the first impression has been given. Now it is important not to freeze: how can you get from being the first time speaker to the expert? Back in the day I wrote the whole outline of my presentation within PowerPoint, within the note section. I seriously fine-tuned all what I was going to say and wanted to say. A full script was sometimes in front of me when I had to present. After that the confidence level went up, the power of memorizing got bigger and I gave it a shot by rehearsing a lot. The whole script I tried to memorize, the effect: a total mind freeze. My aim was simply to get through my presentation still standing.

Couple of months later I started to trust myself to work from notes and found out there was an audience there. This audience of course still gave me the creeps because they were messing with my mind and flow. But the audience also made me realize that it’s about sharing the ideas I have and not just the sentences I wrote down on paper.

The audience is your hero

Like Nancy Duarte states in her book Resonate, which I highly recommend , your audience is the hero. You already know that your presentation should not be all about you and how brilliant you are (or how brilliant your company is). But what attitude should you take instead? Nancy recommends casting the audience as the hero of your presentation and suggests you, the presenter, take on the role of mentor. You invite the audience to come on a journey with you from their ordinary world to your special world – the world of your new idea, the change you’re proposing, or the product or service you’re selling. Audience insights and resonance can only occur when a presenter takes a stance of humility.

After done several presentations, even in Japanese, I started to connect with my audience. When I, for the first time, really experimented talking to individuals within the audience I had the idea I was really connecting and giving a speech for the first time!

How did I achieve this? I made sure I knew my content well and focused on expressing. It’s that easy. Besides this I never concern about me not being interesting or engaging because I always show my enthusiasm. How? I just make sure that what I present matters to me and is interesting to me. No way you could get a non-interesting topic to be presented with passion.

Tell stories from your own life

One way of connecting with your audience, and show passion, is to tell stories and use examples. Lot of people try to tell stories that aren’t their own. A lot of people can easily pick up on that because a mistake is simply made and the level of enthusiasm you bring to the stage can be off. My suggestion would be to avoid this and just tell your own story, something you experienced yourself. When doing this you have to try to be engaging and memorable.

The great thing about telling your own story is that you can be naturally enthusiastic, because it’s your story. The audience will appreciate if you tell your own story and if you take some lessons in story telling from professional entertainers. It’s out there on youtube.com, stand-up comedy for instance.

But I don’t have anything to tell really…

Everyone has something to tell. Don’t tell yourself your story isn’t worth spreading or is boring. As long as you can put your uttermost best in the story, and the way you bring it, it is worth sharing.

I don’t consider myself to be funny

There are people that say they aren’t funny enough to tell their story. Let me just tell you that you don’t have to be John Cleese, Bill Cosby or Ricky Gervais. The point is that you have a great deal of life experience from which to build your stories on. In fact, as you get older and your experience grows, your stories should in theory get even better and more diverse.

Bring your true authentic self to the stage and engage, teach, and illuminate through your own stories and examples. And remember, even monkeys fall from trees.