Delivering a WOW Presentation: Developing the Speaker Within You


Delivering a WoW Presentation.

Whenever someone refers to or recounts the highlights of a WOW address to us we instantly imagine one of those hugely successful addresses where the speaker held their audience spell-bound, followed by enthusiastic applause and accolades.

But there is another type of WOW address, one that may strike terror into the heart of the inexperienced or unprepared speaker: this is the With Out Warning address.

As with many of the vagaries of life, it can happen at any time, indeed With Out Warning.

Despite the best planning, periodically we are approached by an event host, or perhaps our CEO or Chairman, to advise that a speaker has dropped out at the last moment due to illness or other extenuating circumstances, and could we stand in for them? In such situations we could have anywhere from a few days, right down to a few minutes notice to stand and speak.

This has happened to me when, literally at midnight, I was advised of the inability of a conference keynote to deliver the first presentation of the day, the next day, and, I was requested to fill the gap.

This is the essence of the With Out Warning, or WOW address.

There is little time to prepare, no margin for error, and the expectations of the event organizers are high.

So what do we do in these trying circumstances? How do we respond initially, and how do we execute this task effectively?

There is a process to follow that will deliver results, both for the event organizer and for us as a speaker.

  • The first question to ask the person approaching us is How long do we speak for?
    Nail this down clearly.
    It could be anywhere from 2 to 35 minutes.
  • Then agree on a subject for our address.
    Critical.
    We must think on our feet here as this will shape the success or failure of this address, and very possibly the event.
    This is where we have our (frequently only) chance to select and agree a subject that we are conversant with, and can competently deliver on.
  • Jot down some time segments, or blocks.
    Usually around four will work well.
    If we are speaking for two minutes: four by thirty second blocks.
    If speaking for twenty minutes: four by five minute blocks, and so forth.
    This will not only help us to organize our thoughts, but, critically, to deliver on time.
  • Now, think clearly, focus, and mentally process what are the components of the address?
    Usually we will have at least some time to do this, but if we really have to, it can be done in two minutes.
  • Into each one of the time blocks note down the key point for that speaking period.
    Don’t waste time on this: if we know our subject the ideas will flow almost instantly.
    Remember, only one subject for the address, and ideally only one point for each time period.
  • If necessary, include a couple of memory prompts for material relevant to each of the listed points.
  • Check to ensure that the content we have listed flows naturally, is connected and logically flows from point to point.
    Reschedule the list if necessary to achieve this natural flow.
  • Take a deep breath.
  • Stand and deliver.

The WOW address draws heavily upon our ability to focus, to demonstrate clear thinking and to seamlessly harness and integrate text, tone and body language.

Most successful speakers have a relatively small suite of signature addresses that they use routinely, and can deliver off the cuff. Over time these particular addresses become finely honed and perfected, and are very, very polished.

It does us no harm to likewise concentrate on a select few addresses and really work on them to ensure they are both flawless and highly effective.

Once these are identified and developed it is very helpful to carry them with us permanently on our smart phone or tablet so that if called upon with little, or no notice, we can step up to the lectern confidently on an impromptu basis.

In any case, it is profitable to have several well constructed addresses readily available for such occasions as these.

Remember, a haulmark of a competent speaker is that they can respond to these situations without fuss, seemingly without effort and deliver as if they had been preparing for weeks.

Do this, and most certainly our reputation will precede us.

Author Neil Findlay

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