It was one of those moments that many public speakers fear. I was on stage in front of a couple hundred business owners wanting to understand how to improve their social media marketing. About 10 minutes into the presentation, my computer shut down. The screen was blank. I was speaking without notes or a Powerpoint.
The trip to Michigan had included a major omission in my packing regiment. While I have a mental checklist of things that I need to bring on every trip that usually works like a charm, this time I forgot something very important: my computer charger. An hour before my presentation, we ran to Staples to get a new one and all was right in the world.
Unfortunately, I checked to see if the plug fit. I didn’t check to see if any juice was going into it. There was none. The computer was dead and failed at the best possible moment.
It was the best thing that could have happened. I learned a valuable lesson, one that will guide future presentations. I interacted with the crowd, allowed them to guide the direction of the presentation rather than a Powerpoint, and the results were quite valuable both for me and (hopefully) the audience. Rather than go slide to slide, I went person to person. Rather than random examples that I had pre-selected, I asked the crowd to shoot questions at me about their current social media situation.
Working on the spot and off the cuff worked out very nicely. The audience was a diverse one with many different types of businesses. I posed the premise that, despite common perceptions, most businesses are able to take advantage of social media in some way or another. The first example was an easy one – a car wash. I thought for a moment and determined that pictures of cool cars, filthy cars, and unique cars with the stories behind them would make for an interesting Facebook page. When a car comes in that has mud all the way to the roof, there’s probably an interesting story behind it.
The second business was a bit harder: a funeral home. Despite the morbid topic, we determined that a thoughtful album dedicated to the deceased and honoring their memory would be a great way to have an “enhanced” version of an obituary. As odd as it might sound, if those albums were promoted to the local community, it could be a real differentiator for their service. More importantly, it could be a great way for the loved ones of the deceased to see and discuss them.
A few examples later, we got to the winner of the day: a septic tank cleaning company. After the initial chuckles and expectations that I would be stumped, I said, “Well this is crappy.” It was inappropriate but bought me enough time to think about what it would really take.
On social media, a company like that could focus on messes. The great spills of the world. The risks they pose in the community. The costs of handling it before rather than later. It would work. It wasn’t ideal, but it would work.
Just about every business can gain from social media. It’s just a matter of finding the right angle.
To the public speakers of the world, always be ready to go without slides. Even better, try doing your presentations without them altogether. I’ve seen presentations that were basically a person who was reading what was on the screen. That’s not what presentations are about. Get the audience involved. If you have to use a Powerpoint, use it as a guide rather than the whole presentation itself. It works!