BY Vincent Pietrafesa
Postings Direct & Digital News From DMCNY | Vol 6, Issue 2 | June 2015

For ten of my 14 years in direct marketing, I’ve had the pleasure of being in a client-facing role. For six years, I have also been a standup comedian, a role that has helped me become a more effective communicator and public speaker.

Last October I had the honor of serving as the Master of Ceremonies for the DMA14 conference in San Diego. Perhaps you saw me in action. That gig was my first experience putting my personal and professional worlds together. I loved it, and I learned a lot.

So I thought I’d share with you five tips for public speaking, which I have learned from comedy and sales.

1. Do your research. Whether MC’ing an event or presenting to a single client, try to understand as much as you can about that organization. This is much easier now than it was when I first started in our industry. There is a wealth of information on the Internet, so use it.

2. Always try and address a room as if you’re having an intimate conversation with an individual or a small group. When I looked out at that DMA audience of several thousand people, I admit, I was pretty overwhelmed. But when I reminded myself that I was just having a conversation, it made all the difference. Of course, it helped that my first joke hit the mark!

3. Read the room. Whether at a comedy club or a client demo, pay attention to how your audience is reacting to the presentation and content. If you see that they are less interested in a certain set of products or topics, shift gears and move to another area of focus. In a comedy club, if you lose the
audience, watch out—they’ll start heckling you.

4. Set an expectation. Right up front, I like to introduce the topics, along with the time the presentation will last. I get specific, for example,“ Today we will discuss our five product offerings, covering 12 slides, taking 45 minutes, with 15 minutes for questions at the end.”There is nothing worse than an audience that doesn’t know how long a presentation will be.

5. Fess up. If you really don’t know the answer to something, don’t try and fake your way out of it. It’s okay to say you don’t know, take that person’s contact info and get back to them with a follow-up call or email. This only works if you actually follow up, so please make sure you do. Those are five tips that come to mind, but I do want to add one pet peeve I have in presentations. I advise presenters to avoid beginning an answer to a question from the audience with “Great question.” To me, this implies that some audience questions are better than others, and may cause hurt feelings in the group. Just something for you to consider. Happy speaking, and happy selling to all.

Vincent Pietrafesa is Director of Business Development at BusinessWatch Network, a proud board member of DMCNY and the rising- star comedian Vincent James.