Recently, I’ve seen two contrasting shows that reinforced some key things about giving presentations and can be the difference between having 75,000 on their feet and being carted off with your tail between your legs.
Firstly, I found myself watching a TV show on Magic Going Horribly Wrong and then followed up by seeing Adele live in concert in Melbourne. Very much chalk and cheese but both provide great learnings from a presentation skills perspective.
The good stuff
“Hello, it’s me” – Start strong. Adele opened with one of her most popular songs, “Hello” to turn an expectant crowd into a mass of people eager for more. You need to capture your audience from the start. No matter how good your material that comes later, if you’ve lost the audience with a wishy washy opening they’ll be checking their phones for the rest of the session.
Tell stories – yes, this a common one and it is so valuable. Adele told a series of very genuine stores between songs. This took her approval ratings for the show from 100% to 250%. Just singing, or telling people the important stuff you need to, does not a killer presentation make. Adele used a lot of comedy in her stories too. If you can, this works, but be wary of material that isn’t actually funny.
Less is more – Her set was simplicity itself. Starting with striking images of her closed eyelids, the majority of the show used very limited graphics, no fancy lighting and hardly any other people up on stage with her. Adele played to her strengths and let her stunning voice be the star of the show. Sure, if you are Pink and can pull off flying round a stadium, knock yourself out, but otherwise stick to showcasing what you are great at and what people are there to see.
The not so good stuff
The TV show told stories of magicians who had tried various stunts that didn’t quite work out as planned.
Practice first – So, if you have to free yourself from chains before the slack is taken up by a speeding race car in front of thousands DON’T choose that as the first time to do it blindfolded – the ambulance might not be enough to save you. Make sure you’ve have practiced your presentation, know your material and your venue set up.
Script your finale (and an escape route) – if being chained and dropped into a lake wasn’t dumb enough, try doing it in Iceland where you have to cut a hole through 1m thick ice first. Only luck, and an air pocket under the ice, saved this escapologist from death. If only he’d ensured his finale was foolproof and maybe had some kind of cone in the water so he’d float up to the hole not miss it. Make sure you have a strong finale prepared and it’s easy to execute, even if something throws you off track.
Just don’t do it – I’m a big fan of using props and other devices to help make points in presentations. But you need to know your limits, if you try something too complex, especially in an untested venue it’s a recipe for disaster. A British escapologist decided it was a great idea to be buried alive 10ft down with earth piled on top of him. Safe to say, if your first reaction to the digger dropping soil on you is ‘Wow, I didn’t expect it to be that heavy” it might not be the best idea! At its most basic, if you get really stage fright then scripting all, or part of, your presentation is so much better for the audience than incoherent babbling.
If you want to watch the TV show it’s quite addictive – will the man really slam his hand on a knife, surely the digger should stop burying a man after he has been underground for 5 minutes and if your mate teaches you how to get out of chains inside a locked container full of water, is it really sensible to try!
You can watch it here – https://au.tv.yahoo.com/plus7/when-magic-goes-horribly-wrong/
Personally, the TV show was like watching ‘car crash tv’ and as for Adele, it was simply a joy to watch a superstar at work. The fabulous #Melbourne evening and great venue was an added bonus.
Now, is your next presentation going to bring you Hometown Glory or is the Skyfall-ing in on you?
I’d love to hear how it goes and if you need help, call me – unless you are an escapologist in which case an ambulance might be more appropriate!