I would never enter a raffle or a competition, in case I would win.
Last year I was invited to watch Wales play Ireland at rugby by a friend, and there was a posh dinner beforehand. There was a raffle. The moment they mentioned the word, I knew I would win. I just knew it. And, yes, the winner had the exact same name as me. I had to stand up in front of hundreds of people and collect my prize.
The thought of being centre of attention has always inspired me to want to run a mile. Or even further, if demanded. It’s an introvert thing. I guess.
At 21, I landed a job as a writer in what was one of the world’s most creative advertising agencies. I was there for about 8 years. I went to less than five meetings with clients. They believed in keeping the creatives as far away from creatives as possible. Yay. So did I.
But then I quit to go to another agency which was one of best places for creative writers to work. Still is today. They believed in the writers presenting their work. I found that out on the day I started. I was about to be found out. Hell.
I was a good writer. But a terrible presenter. Or so I had convinced myself. And candidly, I could have un-sold almost any awarding winning campaign. I was so bad. It gives me shivers today to think just how bad.
Then I started companies, and get this, I kept getting asked to speak at some incredible companies. My job was no longer to write about what I did, but talk about what I did. When asked to speak, I would not sleep for weeks, my family begged me not to do any more talks, because I became a stressed dad, rather than the normal laid-back dad. And then when I got on stage, I got though it. But only that. No more. I would always come off stage thinking I could have done better. I kept disappointing myself.
I knew something had to change. And it did. I decided to get good at doing talks. Or I would have to stop doing them.
Mark Shayler came to my rescue. He may not remember this, but he gave me some advice on how to give a great talk. It was simple advice but utterly life-changing. And I put it into practice. Everything changed for me after that.
I have since given talks at Apple, Google, Facebook, Red Bull, John Lewis. My last Keynote was to 700 people at Waitrose. And I loved it. If you told me 5 years ago I could say that, I would have thought you were crazy.
So, I guess what I am saying is if you recognise yourself in some of my words, sign up to Mark Shayler’s Do Presentation workshop. He will help you. I know.
I just wish he had done this workshop 10 years ago.
Co-founder of The Do Lectures.
Co-founder of Hiut Denim Co.
23 Incredible Insights to Giving a Great Talk.
1, Nerves are good.
It shows you care. It shows this matters to you. It shows you are human. Showing your vulnerability is one of most powerful ways to win over an audience. Remember, they have come to see you win. They are rooting for you.
“Speak the truth even if your voice shakes.”
2, Emotions connects us to your story.
Emotions are a pathway for us to feel something for you and your story. But, the emotion must be genuine. And it can’t be overused. Use it in short bursts only.
“Learning takes place when you kick them into a higher attention level. Touch their hearts, their minds will follow.” Lilly Walters
3, Each talk is a journey.
Your journey. Your struggle. Your worst moment. Your aha moment. Make them walk each step with you. Don’t just tell your story, make them feel it.
“The content matters so much less than we think it matters, we think so much less than we think we think. We feel. We are feeling creatures. You have to make them feel something.” John Kearon.
4, Slick doesn’t engage.
We relate to imperfections better than perfections. We need to see you the human behind that presentation. Let them see a human. Not a robot.
5, Stop telling yourself you can’t.
One of the biggest fears most people have is public speaking. They have told themselves that they could never do that. And, over the years they have convinced themselves that this is true. But, it is not.
To be able to give a great talk, you have to start telling yourself a different story: That you can give an amazing talk.
6, Empty stomach. Empty head.
Dopamine and epinephrine help regulate mental alertness. Both come from tyrosine, an amino acid found in proteins. So eat a good protein packed meal before you talk. There are some studies out there that suggest skipping breakfast can lead to a 20–40% reduction in concentration, memory and alertness.
7, Have a Plan B.
At some point during one of your talks, the slides will not come up in the order that you put them in, that great film you want to share will play without sound, the projector they have will not work with the lead you have. You will stutter. You will fluff a line. It’s going to happen at some point.
So rehearse what you are going to do when it goes wrong, not just for when it goes right.
8, Hit the bottle the night before.
The brain is 70 percent water, so keeping hydrated is important for your memory. Water also improves the brain’s function as a whole — when it is dehydrated it works more slowly.
9, Be you.
Winnie the Pooh said it best: “The things that make me different are the things that make me”. So stop trying to be someone else. You do ‘You’ better than anyone else on earth.
10, Routines help.
They take your mind off things especially in the hours before a talk. Develop a routine. It calms you down. It reminds you that you have done this before. It acts as a distraction for your fears and nerves.
Silence is powerful. Use it after your key point. It gives them time to digest the gravity of what you have just said.
12, Be loose.
Practice. Practice. Practice. There are many stages of practice. The first stage is where you suck. Then the next stage you suck a little less. Then the next stage is where you know it pretty well. But not off by heart. Most people stop here.
And so when they give the talk, they still have to remember the words. Accordingly, it doesn’t flow 100% naturally. And the audience can feel it.
But the next stage is where the words become effortless. Where no matter how nervous you are, you nail it. This stage is being loose. You care the most but are the most relaxed.
“I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times.” Bruce Lee
13, If they are not inspired, it’s your fault.
Passion is infectious. Passion can be felt. Passion can’t be faked. Your energy matters. Transfer it. If you want your audience to feel something, you have to feel it the most first.
Every talk you make should have one or two key points. These points need to be repeated. Winston Churchill always repeated his key points slightly differently each time. So he kept their attention.
“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time — a tremendous whack.” Winston Churchill.
15, Ten minutes in.
In a feature film, almost without exception, there will be a turning point around the 22-minute mark. In a talk, people start to lose attention around the 10-minute mark. When you write your talk, you should pay attention to when your audience begins to lose attention. And build in a turning point around this time.
16, People remember stories, not facts.
We are hardwired to remember stories. So if you want someone to remember something, tell them a story. But make sure your story brings to life the point you are trying to make.
17, Analogies work.
Familiar things help us understand complicated things. We can draw analogies from everyday life to make a point. They are simple and familiar. And we remember them.
18, More slides doesn’t equal more retention.
We remember less than we think. We fill our talks with way too much information than we can remember. When it comes to impact, less is indeed more. If you could get your audience to remember three key points, what would they be?
This is from Harvard Business Review:
Some studies suggest that two months after listening to a talk, the average listener will remember only about 25% of what was said. In fact, after we have barely learned something, we tend to forget from one-half to one-third of it within eight hours.
It might seem logical to slow down our thinking when we listen so as to coincide with the 125-word-per-minute speech rate, but slowing down thought processes seems to be a very difficult thing to do. When we listen, therefore, we continue thinking at high speed while the spoken words arrive at low speed. In the act of listening, the differential between thinking and speaking rates means that our brain works with hundreds of words in addition to those that we hear, assembling thoughts other than those spoken to us. To phrase it another way, we can listen and still have some spare time for thinking.
The use, or misuse, of this spare thinking time holds the answer to how well a person can concentrate on the spoken word.
19, We are all visual learners.
John Medina in his book Brain Rules tells us that retention goes up dramatically when pictures are used. Sometimes by up to 60%. But, like anything, they need to be good to be remembered.
20, Examples help us understand.
This is a tried and trusted technique. To understand new things, we can give examples of how it worked in the past. So, something complicated becomes much easier to understand.
People learn a great deal while laughing their head off. Make them laugh. At the same time, you will make them remember you and your story.
22, Learn to breathe.
And you will learn to cope with nerves, stress and fear. Indeed, if you can learn to breathe, you will learn how to do a great talk.
23, Exercise before a talk.
That can be a run, a walk, a little yoga. Cortisol is secreted by your adrenal glands. It stops you from being in peak state. The best way to burn off cortisol is to exercise. Have a great run. Do a great talk.
Why attend Do Present One day workshop?
This workshop will show you how to find your voice. How to be more you. How to stand-out. How to use slides that don’t look like slides. How to talk without slides. How to come off-script. How to hold yourself on stage. How to relax. And how to learn to love the performance.
Doing a great talk is not about following a method. It’s not about rules. It’s not about one minute a slide. A great presentation is about finding your true voice. It’s about understanding what you want the audience to do and feel afterwards. Ultimately, it is all about being you.
You know when you’ve seen a great presenter. They effortlessly hold the stage. They don’t seem to use notes. They keep you enthralled for the whole talk. You don’t know how long they’ve been talking for but you haven’t looked at you watch or picked up your phone once. A great speaker leaves you informed, entertained and uplifted. A great speaker has learnt that hardest thing: To just be themselves. And how to relax to let that happen.
Why doing a great talk matters?
Presentations and talks now exist forever. They sit on the internet longer than you’ll work. They need to be brilliant. They need to be compelling. They need to help you grow your business.
You will learn about:
How to prepare so you won’t forget?
How to use films to do the hard work?
How to relax on stage?
How to keep to time without looking at your phone?
Learn the importance of a great talk.
Learn how to read the motivations of the audience.
How to learn your own style? Yes, you have one.
How to learn your own voice? Ditto, for that too.
How to be you? You are very good at that.
(This isn’t about copying the best; it’s about finding your best.)
How to deal with questions, even tricky ones?
How to use your humour?
How to close the talk on a high?
This workshop is restricted to 30 people.
Expect to present in front of everyone.
Expect to be filmed. Bring a laptop.
Workshop with Mark Shayler.
Mark Shayler is one of Britain’s most charismatic keynote speakers. He has made a reputation by thinking on his feet, by engaging audiences all over the world. He has spoken to some of the biggest companies in the world. When he isn’t on stage he is a leading change consultant for companies.
Good simple food.
Plus teas, coffees, and snacks throughout the day.
If you want to attend ‘How to give a talk like you have always wanted to’ book a place here.
London. March 16th. £350.
Mark’s book Do Disrupt is available here.