Too Big to Succeed

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A personal trainer once told me he can predict when everyone's New Year's Resolution to lose weight will fail: when Girl Scout cookies arrive. Why? Because the dieters made changes that were too big to succeed; they went from eating cheeseburgers for lunch to spinach leaves. 

The same is true in public speaking. For routine business presentations, don't try to go from a simple 20-slide talk to a State of the Union address. I see too many speakers try to change everything in one talk and they become overwhelmed. The easiest thing to do is give up and go back to bad habits, like eating cheeseburgers and cookies. Instead, make these small changes to add polish and professionalism to your talk:

  • First impression: Avoid starting with a predictable "Agenda" slide. They're all the same. We get it - the meeting will start with "Introductions" and conclude with "Next Steps" and "Q&A." Nothing new there. Instead, open with a story or jaw-dropping data to wake everyone up and get them focused on what you have to say.

  • Last impression: Does your last side always say "Questions?" Probably. Most speakers use the "Questions?" slide to remind them they're at the end of their talk. You know what? If you're smart enough to be asked to give presentations, you're smart enough to remember when you've come to the end. Instead, close with another story or interesting data, and make your last slide a picture that summarizes your main points. That way, the picture will be your backdrop during Q&A, reinforcing your message, instead of the lame "Questions?" slide staring at the audience.

These two small changes will show your audience you put in the extra effort to connect with them and be memorable and persuasive. Good luck!