When I was competing in Toastmasters International speech contest, I hired a World Champion of Public Speaking to coach me through the process. I learned a lot of really valuable things from David Brooks but the one that stuck with me the most came from a question he asked me.
Early in our conversation, the 1990 World’s Champion of Public Speaking asked me which minute of the speech was most important. Confidently, I replied that I thought the first minute was most important because it was the speaker’s job to get and hold their audience’s attention.
He told me that a lot of people feel that way. He said that just as many will say it’s the last minute because closing is important, but for his money, the most important minute is the 60 seconds of silence that follows a speech as the judges are completing their score cards.
I was blown away.
I hadn’t considered this before but now that I have, it makes so much sense. That’s when the big decision is made. Not when the speaker is speaking but after they’ve left the stage.
This lesson holds true in the business world just as much as the competition stage. The decision is never made during the presentation. It happens after the speaker, the salesperson or presenter has left the room and before the next appointment walks in. It’s the corporate version of a “minute of silence” and it’s the most important “minute” of the entire presentation.
Winning this minute requires more than can be explained in one blog post but there are three things that I believe are essential to being in contention.
Get and keep your audience’s attention.
Obvious, I know, but how many times have you watched someone speak while your mind went through your grocery list? That presenter didn’t keep your attention.Design your presentation around the needs of your audience, not yours and don’t let anything distract from your core message.
I’m not talking Jimmy Fallon entertaining, but entertaining enough that your audience appreciates your time together. The best way to do this is to find at least one story with humor that helps to illustrate your point. This isn’t joke time. Jokes rarely work and are too much risk, but we all have humorous stories about our product or service. Make an effort to keep a list of them and use them when the opportunity arises. People will remember feeling good when you leave.
Don’t close your presentation with a question and answer period. Close it on your terms. This means planning time for questions before you wrap up so that the last words you leave them with make the intended impact. Good closes tie back to your opening. Great closes tie back to your opening and call the audience to action. Close strong and your chances of being remembered increase dramatically.
Being memorable is tough and serious business but it’s only those that stand out that get called back. This means you have the win the minute of silence that happens when you leave the room. Keep these three points in mind and I can assure you that you’ll be competitive.