Monday, January 28, 2008

Make Your 'State of the Union' Speech Successful

Much of America either listened to the audio or watched the TV presentation of the annual State of the Union address tonight. This speech was an opportunity for the president to set his agenda for the next few months and highlight his accomplishments to U.S. public. The speech to Congress was on a national stage and offered a few lessons to speakers. Whether you're Bush fan or not, this article is not Bush nor politics. This article is about you making the most of a keynote presentation. Let discuss three takeaways:

Acknowledge Challenges
In discussing the economy, the president acknowledged that America was "undergoing a period of economic uncertainty." He came right out and said it. Some presenters try hard to pull a snow job on their audience when it comes to discussing not-so-good news. Whether it's your managing board or clients, they likely know of the challenges. Don't try to hide obvious challenges and risk losing trust and credibility. I've always found it beneficial to bring up the challenges and obstacles myself, and pinpoint how my team is addressing the challenges.

Don't be afraid to highlight your accomplishments.
This is another area where you can make an impact. No matter what challenges your organization is facing, you must highlight your accomplishments and the benefits created by the accomplishments. You have to be your own cheerleader. If you think about, unless your accomplishments were recent, people will likely forget about them. Again back to the president, in his case, he mentioned the proposed $150bn stimulus package and announced a crackdown on congressional earmarks. These were a few of the accomplishments he wanted to pass on to the people.

Do a run through of your presentation.
"Spokeswoman Dana Perino tells reporters that Bush gave the speech one last run-through this morning." Practice? This was reported on the USA Today Blog by Mike Carney. I twinge when I hear colleagues saying they don't need to practice their major presentation and seminar - citing they want to be spontaneous. If the president on a national stage runs through his presentation, shouldn't we do the same. We only get one time to make a first impression.

Script your presentation.
This forces you to think things through. Don't try to memorize everything, just become familiar with the material, the setting and the audiovisual equipment. If you don't work from scripts -- prepare one anyway and leave it in your room during your presentation.

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