Be the Best Bad Presenter Ever

The Legal Marketing Association Texas Conference “Texas Think Tank” was held November 6-7 in Dallas. Karen Hough, Founder and CEO of ImprovEdge LLC, gave the keynote speech, “Be the Best Bad Presenter Ever!” Taking lessons from the art of improv, Karen shared tips on how to be an engaging speaker and achieve maximum impact in influencing others.

Did you know that your audience forms an opinion in the first 7 to 30 seconds? That means if you are giving a presentation, pitching a prospect or just networking, you had better nail your opening. Not only do you need to nail your opening, but also your closing as people typically remember the first and the last thing they hear.

Much of what Karen taught about being a great business presenter was founded on improv comedy. She outlined four basic principles of improv that legal marketing professionals would do well to abide by:

  1. Yes! Space. Humans react poorly to new ideas; it’s in our nature. So the moral of the story is to start saying yes instead of no. It brings positivity and creativity to the workplace. No one likes a “no” or “but” person, so start being a “yes and” person.
  2. Building Blocks. This principle points back to the age-old phrase “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Start with something small and build it into something exceptional.
  3. Team Equity. Your team is your support system, and it’s important to leverage the combined power of the people in your organization.
  4. Oops Eureka! Understand that mistakes often yield the greatest discoveries. For example, 3M shelved Post-it® notes for three years thinking the concept was a complete flop. Little did they know…

In addition to adhering by the above principles, Karen explained that the key to all great presentations is to define their purpose and action. In determining the purpose, ask yourself: What do I want my audience to do after they hear my presentation? Fill in the blank: I want them to ___________.

In determining action, ask yourself: How do I want people to feel when they leave? Entertained, inspired, persuaded or motivated to do or create something, etc.? If your answer is to inform, then stop there, cancel your presentation and write a blog or send a memo. Karen believes informing your audience is just a cop-out.

We’ve all received numerous tips about how to be a great presenter, so Karen left us with a few rules to break:

  1. Practice in front of a mirror. It’s OK to do this once, but don’t be overly focused on memorizing your facial expressions. You end up coming across stiff and too rehearsed.
  2. Picture the audience naked. When has this tip helped anyone?
  3. If something goes wrong, act like nothing happened. This is probably one of the best rules to break. Everyone knows mistakes happen during presentations, e.g., technical difficulties, dropping papers, etc. Always acknowledge your mistakes and move on!

Another important tip Karen offered is to focus more on your body language than the words in your presentation. In a recent study, 55 percent of people are most influenced by body language, 38 percent by the tone of your voice, leaving 7 percent to words. Your body can also influence your brain, so if you look confident you will feel confident.

A few other takeaways that Karen emphasized in her presentation are worth noting: It takes 10,000 hours of practice to be an expert at anything; experience should teach us that it is always the unexpected that does occur; and we are what we repeatedly do.

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