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Keep all your promises

As a Public Speaker or Professional Presenter, your business is reliant on your reputation. I am sure you will agree, that the quickest way to lose that reputation is to become known as someone who does not keep their promises.

I am also certain that you know that public speaking is all about promises. Every great orator from Cicero to Churchill has been credited with the saying tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.

The first part of that Tell them what you are going to tell them is where you embed your promises to your audience.

If your speech is going to benefit your audience, then at this stage you will be addressing the problems they are likely to be suffering, and everyone will be listening out for their specific issue.

You might open your speech with Today I am going to talk to you about Music, Video and Software piracy online and discuss its impact on the economy.

Its OK if your main goal is to talk mostly about music piracy, you can keep the emphasis on that, but you must also ensure that the other items get some prominence.  Let your audience know that the prime focus is music piracy but check in multiple times when the crossover points are reached.

Audiences notice things on a subconscious as well as a conscious level and if you just skip over an item with barely a mention,they will feel uncomfortable without knowing why, thereby losing concentration and focus.

Remember as well, that different things interest different people. If someone hears you say that you are going to talk about software piracy and you spend 20 minutes talking about music piracy and then say the same applies to software. Do you think they are going to be happy?

The people in your audience that were listening out for your content on video or software piracy are going to be very disappointed. You may feel that its not a huge issue if 95% of your audience come from the music industry. If you have an audience of 400 and 5% of them tell 10 friends, colleagues or acquaintances that you weren’t very good and lacked integrity, then each of them tells 10 others the same thing, that is 200 people, the equivalent of half your audience.

Remember that a large portion of your audience, who are interested in music piracy, are going to feel uncomfortable, without knowing why, and will ignore the final call to action (you have got a call to action haven’t you?), without knowing why. If the call to action is in room sales (membership of the antipiracy league or something similar), you may be surprised by the low take up.

Worse still, if the call to action is a deferred action (never a good idea but sometimes inevitable) like going to a web site to register, you may never know just how poor the take up is or how many re-bookings and referrals you lost.

The same applies to questions. If you say you will take questions at the end, don’t answer any questions during your talk, wait till the end like you promised.

There will always be someone in the audience who will ignore your request to wait and who will raise a hand at some point. Don’t let this break your flow. Finish your current point and then say very politely. Thank you for showing an interest but my time on the platform is limited today, can you jot your question down and I will get back to you at the end.

If your presentation is well built and founded on the correct objectives, chances are you will have answered the question by the end of the presentation. Make sure you go back to the potential question no matter what. The subconscious never stops working and at some level your audience will be checking that you have kept that promise.

If for any reason you overrun and don’t have time for questions, acknowledge this and offer to answer them individually at the back of the room or breakout area. This will satisfy the whole audience and those that want to hear the answer will gather round you at the back.  Do not use this as a seemingly clever sales technique to gather fans, people are smart and will see right through it.

If you have to leave before answering all questions, give people an opportunity to connect with you by email or social media to get their answer, or publish it in your blog and let them know when you have done so.

When you get to question time, set expectations e.g. I will answer as many questions as I can in the next 10 minutes, I only have time for 3-5 questions, so please keep them brief. When you take a question, do it literally. Take the question by listening carefully and repeating it verbatim, so that everyone in the audience knows what the question is. Doing this means that everyone feels involved and knows you kept your promise to answer it.

If you don’t know the answer to a question, it is OK to say so and leave the audience thinking what an honest and open person you are because its the imperfection that makes things perfect and everyone loves to see that a speaker has at least one little flaw.

If you don’t know the answer but are pretty sure you can find it out, tell the questioner that you will find out and get back to them. Let them know the time scale and method and make sure that you follow up as promised.

Have you ever been to a presentation where you were promised a copy of the slides or some other resource? Are you still waiting?  I know I am owed about a dozen slide shows, images and video links. If you don’t have the time, or even the inclination to send links or resources after a presentation, make a polite refusal. Audiences appreciate that some things are proprietary or that they can google for a simple keyword, so just be upfront with them. However if you promise an audience copies of your slides, etc. make sure that you send them.

Next time you are preparing a presentation, look at your embedded promises, plan how you are going to keep them and use your conclusion to check in. Ask yourself Did I tell them what I said I was going to tell them?

Public speaking really is about your public persona. 

Keeping promises builds trust.