Thursday, July 22, 2010

The networked speaker: 10 ways to make the most of your next gig

(Editor's note: This appeared earlier this week on my don't get caught blog, but it has obvious utility for Eloquent Woman readers.)

As a networked communicator, you're more likely to be asked to speak--but are you making the most of those visible networking opportunities?  Here's how to become a networked speaker who makes the most of each presentation gig:

  1. Business cards are a must--but your regular cards may not be just right. Consider special cards for your speaking gigs that point audiences to your blog, resources online about this talk (see below) or how to engage you for another speech.  Add your photo to help audience members remember you, or make mini-cards so they're easy to keep separate from your regular business cards.
  2. QR (quick response) codes are easy-to-make graphic codes in which you can embed links to your online profiles, discounts on your book, or your contact information. You can print them on business cards, stickers or your name badge; audience members need only point their smartphone barcode readers, take a picture and later download the information. Fast and easy for everyone.
  3. A special website for advance information can include your full bio, a summary of your talk, your slides, options for audience members and others to post questions in advance, and links to your Twitter feed, Facebook page and more.  Check out Flavors.me, which lets you pull together all your social networking and web presences, or Posterous.com, where you can grab a custom URL, and even add to your blog posts via email.
  4. Followup on the web after your talk by posting video, photos, answers to questions, your slides and more. Share those QR codes here, and add links to related content.  One tactic I like:  Get video of your audience's questions, then post them online with written answers and links, to make your followup presence on the web useful and interactive.
  5. Work your social networks.  On Twitter, share a hashtag so others outside the room can follow along, and troll for advance questions.  On Facebook, post an event notice, encourage advance questions, and post your slides and photos. Use all your social networks to share links to coverage of your talk.
  6. Work the room before you speak, introducing yourself to audience members, asking what their questions are, finding out more about them. Greet them at the door or move around the room; this will keep you energized and connected, and the more you know about them, the more pertinent your remarks. Hand out those cards and QR codes--it's much easier to circulate cards before you speak, rather than after.
  7. Work the halls after and make yourself available. Remember that many audience members will not want to stand up and pose a question in front of the crowd. Today, "working the halls" also may mean answering followup questions on those other hallways, Twitter and Facebook. Don't forget those outside the room.
  8. Keep better track of those you meet in person. Need to remember someone you've connected with after your talk? Use the Evernote app on your phone to take a picture of them with their name badge on; once you've loaded that into an Evernote notebook, you can search for it using the words on the badge.
  9. Learn about co-presenters and panelists in advance and share a few pertinent links and profiles with them so they know something about you.  Can you research and reference one of their online articles or talks in your remarks?  Connect with them on social networks, now that you're getting to know one another.
  10. Work with your organizers.  What can they tell you about the audience? Are they making a special website for the panel on which you can share advance information? If not, let them know about yours. Ask them to share links to your blog, your online profiles and any advance information you're posting with the members of the group before you speak.  Are you offering a discount for the group or looking for advance questions?  The organizers can include that in their emails, newsletters and web postings.
Enter your email address in the box at right to get Step Up Your Speaking, my free monthly newsletter that focuses in-depth on a different speaker issue each month, then head over to The Eloquent Woman on Facebook to continue the discussion.

How do we balance technical v. non technical for a mixed audience?

This month, I'm asking readers "Who are you? What are you looking for here?"  Follow the link to share your reasons, questions and  speaking challenges. Cate, who's in a special training program at a multinational corporation, is learning lots of presentation skills and riding a see-saw on some issues like this one, succinctly put:
Technical people want details that execs don't. How do we balance this?
Cate's got a lot of company here: Scientists and non-scientists tell me they have trouble presenting when there will be both scientists and non-scientists in the group.  My clients tell me they want to show what they know, and they anticipate the technical experts in the audience will criticize them for leaving out details. At the same time, they know the decision-makers' eyes will glaze over if too much detail is presented. It's a special dilemma for the presenter who's a scientist or technical expert.

This happens a lot in corporate cultures, but not exclusively: Government officials and even nonprofits will find occasions when a technical expert's knowledge is needed to help a group of important decision-makers get informed on key issues.  At some point, technical folks need to work with fundraisers, marketers, policymakers, decision-makers of all kinds. 

My recommendations?
  • Know the purpose of the presentation.  If it's to help non-technical executives make a decision, that should guide your path. If it's to show your technical expertise and eye for detail, that's another thing entirely.
  • Even an audience of experts appreciates a clear, compelling presentation. Secretly, technical folks admire short and sweet presentations--despite the flow of questions that may follow--and the non-technical folks will thank you, again and again.
  • Define your territory.  State at the outset--and throughout your presentation--how far you will and will not be diving into detail. Both groups will appreciate that, and you'll head off some questions as well as subtly demonstrate that you do have the data, even if you're not showing it. 
  • Structure your presentation with a 3-point message:  Developing a three-point message helps you add focus and boil down the technical details into three themes, results or decision-making points. A message also can help you stick to simple, clear terms that any listener can follow, a must in this type of presentation. You can also work to make it more memorable by dressing it up with analogies, alliteration and other rhetorical tools.  In this type of presentation, use the three points strategically: to summarize findings (the three most surprising points), what will appeal to key audiences (the points you think donors or venture capitalists will appreciate), or decision opportunities (the points that suggest a change of course).
  • Head off some questions with advance information.  Can you post more detailed charts, data sets and analyses on an intranet or website sent to participants in advance? Then do it, and refer to that summary in the presentation.  "The data sets are all available at this URL, but for this morning, I want to focus on this..."
  • Leave something for the Q&A.  Don't underestimate the value of leaving some detail for the question-and-answer session.  You can even allude to your willingness to present it later: "We can go into this in more depth later if you like, but the main takeaway from our research is...." will go a long way to signaling to both groups your ability to ride that see-saw: You've got the details, but are passing over them to get to the results.
  • Speak to both groups when answering questions:  When you do get a high-tech question, be sure to answer in a way that both groups can appreciate. ("You're quite right, Fred--that does look like an anomaly. But the bottom line is....")
Chemist Carolyn Bertozzi does a great job with that approach in this public lecture on "why sugars are good for you," below.  Note that she mentions a few items that her technically savvy colleagues will want to know, but keeps her general message at a level anyone can follow:



Share your additional questions, tips or challenges in the comments. What kinds of presentations are you making to audiences of technical and non-technical experts?

Related post:  What's the difference between when scientists present to other scientists, and to the public?

This post and the "what's the difference?" post noted above were included in the weekly roundup of the best public speaking articles in the blogosphere on Andrew Dlugan's great Six Minutes blog. Thanks, Andrew!

Enter your email address in the box at right to get Step Up Your Speaking, my free monthly newsletter that focuses in-depth on a different speaker issue each month, then head over to The Eloquent Woman on Facebook to continue the discussion.