Tips on how to keep your PR audience awake

I have given my fair share of presentations – at pitches, conferences and in-house. And some of these have not gone well. There was the time I turned up at a CP office in Delhi, only to find I was meant to be in Gurgaon. Once I spilt coffee down the front of my designer shirt just before pitching, so I got nil points for appearance that day. And there was the time where I kept calling the client Gaurav, though his name was Gautam.

I have also sat through embarrassing presentations made by others. My wardrobe malfunction is nothing compared to the poor soul who was holding forth the other day. Her dress was revealing more than she intended due to several buttons that had given up without her realising. Then there was the guy who turned up wearing only one shoe (there was a good reason for this, he claimed, but I never found out what it was. If you know, please tell me!). Recently, I turned up to a lecture by a well-known PR guru, but fell asleep half-way through. And I wasn’t the only one.

So if you want to keep your audience laughing with you, and not at you, here are my tips:

1. Be funny. Once you get an audience laughing, they will lap up whatever you say. Problem is, I'm not funny. Well sometimes I am, but rarely intentionally, and never on cue.

2. Blow your nose! Important for two reasons: no one likes a sniffer and a nostril that looks like it is about to drip (or worse drop!) has a rather hypnotic effect.

3. Get there early. There is nothing worse than making people wait, as it gives them time to wonder who you think you are and feel hostile towards you before you begin.

4. Don’t talk about yourself too much. No one likes an egotistical sales person.

5. Don’t use confusing slides. If you have to spend half an hour explaining what a graphic is supposed to represent, it’s a rubbish graphic.

6. Get the audience to participate. When I go to a conference, it's so I can get some down time or go home early. I may not want to be asked anything, yet alone be involved in a group discussion, but if I am forced to participate I find I wake up and may even learn something. Also, you'll see who's awake and who's not.

7. Look in the mirror before you go on. Toothpaste, baby sick, make-up malfunctions – we've seen them all.

8. Know your subject. I went to a conference the other day and one of the speakers gave a year-one marketing intro to a room full of directors. It didn't go down well.