Presentations: Bring Out Your Inner David Lee Roth

I have sat through some BORING presentations. Man, what are people THINKING? Clearly, they’re not thinking about their audience. It’s a lot like going to dinner with a blowhard. Me, blah blah blah. You want to communicate through a presentation? Hook your people in and keep them fired up.

Diamond Dave is an entertainer, and by that, I mean that he understands his role is to please his audience. Have you ever seen (old) Van Halen or DLR live? Dave has his finger on your throat the entire time. If you are pumped up, he’ll throw out an even wilder time. If you’re flagging, he moves it into a completely different universe. If you’re feeling the groove of a slower song, he’ll slow it down. Whatever the case, David Lee Roth moves with his audience and knows how to keep their pulse.

Most of us will only present to small groups. We might be talking to a dozen folks, maybe fewer. The rare times we get to speak to hundreds (thousands?), it’s a whole different dynamic anyway. Let’s stick to the smaller venue for this, shall we?

Lead Off With a Bang

I’m really SICK of the advice to throw a title slide, an agenda slide, and then march through the agenda like sleepwalkers. Now, this shouldn’t be news, but you have to understand what you want your audience to DO when you’re done with the presentation before you understand how to start. Are you looking to win them over? Maybe don’t start win an insult. Are you looking to stir things up around here? Maybe start with a jolt. David Lee Roth would start with something explosive, something to grab you by the short hairs, so to speak. He’d say, “Show’s on, kids!”

More Image, Less Text

Do NOT read your slides. Talk from a script. Talk from 100 cards if you have to, but fergawdsake! Do NOT read your slides. I like to add images that aren’t 1:1 with what I’m discussing. Not clip art. Full on images.

Not sure where to find them? Flickr, , and just search the web for “stock images.” Roth likes big stages, pyrotechnics, and whatever other gimmicks he can use to keep people’s eyes filled up. But he still comes through with his message at the same time.

Target Emotions, Use Facts as Bullets

When I’m enduring someone else’s presentation, I’m sitting there thinking, “What’s in it for me?” Everyone is. If you’re being bothered by someone, it better be good. Ditto for you: if you’re going to bother people by getting them together for a presentation, you’ve gotta find emotional hooks, and hang that message on them. Are you looking to shake up the product mix? Then tell the folks in the room that you want to really WOW! the customer base with this next release. Tell them they’ve gotta hit it out of the park. And then, give them details. Give them the facts, the numbers, the result they’ve got to deliver for your needs to be met and exceeded.

Diamond Dave worked strictly for your emotions. He wanted you to be lustful, excited, pumped and primed.

Vinegar, Sugar, and How Does This Change My Day?

People react poorly to negatives. If you say, “Don’t do it that way,” people will be thinking about that way more than the way you wish they’d do it. They’ll often times be a bit defensive, too. Personally, that’s the biggest turn-off in the world. You tell me I’m doing something badly, I’ll start stewing on that, and forget to listen to your message. Give me some sugar, Baby!

People REALLY want to know how what you’re saying impacts their day. See if you can’t break it right down to bits and daily stuff. Even if you’re discussing how this new initiative will reach for the stars, etc, you might be able to throw in something helpful, like, “And this will cut down on processes here and here, but there’s going to be a new system to learn. Training will begin next Wednesday.” See how that gives it all to you in a message?

Check in

The number one trick in David Lee Roth’s playbook (and any performer) is the check-in. How are you people doing tonight? Are you guys feeling it? Believe me, you can tell a lot from the response or lack of response. Okay, you have to be a little more subtle in a meeting room at work. You can’t exactly palm your mouse like it’s a microphone and point it at the group for response. Or can you? It would sure break up the commonplace banality that bores us to misery at work all the time.

I prefer asking people how they’re doing during presentations instead of just trying to read their expressions. You never know what’s going on behind someone’s eyes, and sometimes, a misread will set you off on the wrong path. Just ask it simply. “How are you doing? Is this making sense so far?” Be cautious not to let them critique or change your presentation mid-stream. YOU can change it, but don’t give them the opening.

Finish Strong

Never leave the stage without the roar of applause. Want to know a quick way to get applause? Turn your praise firehose on and SOAK the audience in it. If you’ve got something good to say about the people you’re giving this presentation to, and it ties to the presentation, here’s a great time to do it. Give them the beauty of the future you’re presenting. Find whatever nugget of beauty you can give to your presentation and paint it up here.

Oh, and unlike Roth, no encores. Just do your Q&A, if there is one, and leave the stage gracefully.


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