A sugar packet at a local Chinese restaurant had this wisdom to share, “Experience is what you get, when you don’t get what you want.” With that profound thought in mind, I’m sharing some of my worse speaking experiences so you can make your SAS Global Forum presentation better.
The time I tried the live demo
In a past job I was responsible for training co-workers to use a new web-based application. I thought doing a live demo would make it so easy and quick. This way they could see exactly how it worked and it would save me from creating a PowerPoint package.
You guessed it – technical difficulties. The computer decided it was not going to run the application. I had to call IT and after 15 minutes, they couldn’t get it to work. I had to reschedule the presentation and we had to delay the application roll out because no one was trained. My boss wasn’t singing my praises that week.
Experience I received:
- Backup plan 1. Have an AVI or MP4 of the demo. An application like Camtasia allows you to tape your desktop. However, you may still be in the situation where the file refuses to play.
- Stage check. Test the application prior to the talk to resolve any connectivity issues. Consider using your own computer since you can control more of the variables, such as knowing the computer can play the media file.
- Backup plan 2. Have a PowerPoint with screen captures that you can use.
The time I didn’t have my presentation with me
Last year at the SAS Professional Forum in Marlow, UK, I was presenting some SAS Enterprise Guide tips and tricks. [Join me at the SAS Global Forum 2013 when I present “SAS Enterprise Guide More than a Gift from Outer Space” again.]
When I got on the podium in front of 50 people, I realized the wrong PowerPoint file was loaded. It was a 20-minute presentation and a break schedule immediately afterwards. What was I to do? Long story short, I ran to get my presentation in the other building and within 5 minutes I was able to start. The audience was restless and I was stressed out from all the drama.
Experience I received:
- Be prepared. Have a copy of the presentation on a thumb drive on your person. Consider emailing a copy of the presentation to yourself that you can email to someone else if your thumb drive dies.
- Trust but check. Double-check the computer before you start because you will still have time to load the presentation.
The times I did not rehearse enough
This has happened to me a few times. Either I start coughing, run out of breath, or speak in a higher voice than normal during the presentation. My nerves just get the best of me! Typically, this occurs because I’m not as rehearsed as I need to be and all that energy just takes over. Not only is this situation embarrassing to me, it is also uncomfortable for the audience.
Experience I received:
- Hydrate. It a good idea to make sure you drink plenty of water hours before the talk so your throat does not get dry. I keep bottled water near me during the presentation and carry some cough drops in case of trouble.
- Rehearse your main points. Write your main points in the PowerPoint Notes section. For each slide, you should know the main points that you need to discuss and how you want to say it. [See “Creating Engaging SAS Global Forum Presentations” for more presentation tips.]
- Rehearse your pacing. Ensure you can hit your marks, thus you control your pacing. A 20-minute talk means you need to finish within 18 minutes so there is time for questions. Once you learn the pacing, you don’t have to talk so fast and you can relax.
- Rehearse aloud. Practice speaking so you can ensure your voice projects properly. Do not count on the microphone to do all the work. There is nothing worse than thinking the speaker was trained by a mouse.
- Rehearse upon arrival. There are several rooms set aside for presenters to for practice. Take advantage of this offer. You may want to ask a friend or another presenter to watch your talk and give some feedback.
The times I watched others get experience
Here’s some other last minute tips based on other’s experiences.
Experiences I witnessed:
- Check Your Look. Look at yourself in the mirror. Is there anything on your teeth? Did you cut your price tags off? Is your shirt ripped in a noticeable way?
- Check Your Body. Avoid the Potty Dance during your talk by using the bathroom earlier. Oh, double-check that zipper and those buttons.
- Maintain Focus. Arrive early so you are on time. If you know you are next on the stage, then be ready. No one enjoys waiting while the speaker is chatting on the phone, making origami from his notes, or putting on her makeup.
- No Slurping! If someone brings you an ice cream before your talk, decide if you want to throw it away or give it to an audience member. No one wants to listen to you slurp your ice cream. How about a general No Eating while Presenting rule?
Do you have some tips to share? Maybe things that have happened to you or that you had to witness? Leave them in the Comment section below.