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What I’ve learned… about presenting to an audience

Having delivered seminars and catwalk shows to audiences of thousands in more than 35 countries worldwide – including Taiwan, Australia, the US and Mexico – Paul Falltrick is a seasoned presenter. He’s got a few tips for enhancing your presenting skills. You ready?

 

Step 1: Create a presentation ‘Bible’

Ahead of every presentation, create a ‘Bible’. This should contain every element of your presentation journey from the brief, to audience research you’ve conducted to your hair plans. The Bible will help you to think everything through in advance and ensure you’re as prepared as possible.

Step 2: Plan ahead

As well as rehearsing your actual presentation in advance, to reduce stress, also plan your travelling time (giving yourself at least an hour contingency), choose your outfit and have your kit ready at least two days in advance so you’re not flapping or panicking on the day.

Step 3: Be methodical

Once you arrive at the venue, check out your prep area. Be methodical in how everything is displayed, from pins to products, so that when you’re working you know where everything is. I keep the same set-up regardless of what show I’m doing as I automatically feel comfortable and ‘in the zone’.

Stick a picture of the model, the brief, images and sketches of the looks you’re creating on the wall, then set out the tools and products needed to complete the style. By doing this, there is a clear story for each model and everyone should know exactly what they should be doing.

Step 4: Establish who is in charge

When I’m presenting for Matrix, I always assign a lead in the group of hairdressers to help co-ordinate backstage. Normally this is someone I’ve worked with for years, as they’ll understand what I want to achieve. Whether you’re leading a presentation or are part of the team, identify who should be turned to if advice or direction is needed. This encourages a great flow and sense of calm as you prepare to go onstage.

The team brief on presentation day is also key, as this is the last opportunity to iron out any questions and underline everyone’s roles.

Step 5: Keep the models happy

Your models are selling your hairstyle, so ensuring they’re happy will make a big difference. Simple things like making sure they’ve eaten and have access to drinks, lifts their mood and helps them deliver their best.

Step 6: Create timelines

Each look should have a timeline so you know what needs to be completed when. For example, if a model is having curls, the hair should be set before they go into make-up and left as late as possible to let the curls down so they look fresh on stage.

Timing is essential for a presentation that flows, which is why, when I’m presenting, one of the team will be in the sidelines, supplying me prompts to keep the show on track. They might hold up three fingers to their chest to let me know how long I have left or a twist of the wrist can tell me it’s time to wrap up – no one will know they are there but their role is vital. 

Step 7: Calming nerves

Nerves are natural but can stem a performance if you let them take over. Take a minute to ask yourself: ‘What are you here to do?’. Think of the brief and the key messages you need to convey in your head, such as the benefits of a new product you’re using on stage or the next big trend. Doing this will help the nerves ebb away, because your preparation has left you ready for this moment.

Don’t take a sneaky look at the audience before going on stage. I’ve performed in front of groups of 50 right up to auditoriums of thousands, and can tell you it will only make you feel sick!

I’d also avoid eating chocolate before you go on stage! It dries the mouth and can lead to adrenaline spikes that can cause nerves.

Step 8: Keep your head up

Another tip I’ve learned over my years of presenting is to not look down! The lights on the stage often mean you can’t see the audience but you must remember how they’ll be viewing you. Looking down on stage casts a shadow over your face and can, although unintentional, give the impression that you’re sad or don’t want to be there, so always remember to look up!

Step 9: Keep on moving

When you’re on stage presenting, there can be the tendency to hide behind the model, which is the worst place to be. To avoid this, I work in what I call a ‘perspex box’. This protects you from any anxiety and encourages you to move around your area. Take an open, active stance and navigate around the stage – don’t stray too far as this can be intimidating or show your back to the audience but try not to be static as this can appear unnatural.

Step 10: Know your audience… and interact with them

People in different countries act in different ways, so find out about your audience so you’re not taken aback during your presentation. For example, in China if they’re comfortable, they can take 10 minute power naps – it’s not a sign of boredom, just that they’re relaxed!

When presenting, I look out at the audience in triangles, starting at the back and the top of their heads, then working down to the front. Find friendly eyes and return a smile. You’ll know the ones who are enjoying your presentation, as they’ll be nodding – use these people to spur on the energy of your presentation.

Additionally, make sure your mic is set up correctly so the audience can hear you, but you don’t have that kicking back sound, which means it’s too close to your mouth. They need to be able to understand you clearly – like you’re talking just to them. Emphasise points by moving the tone of your voice up and down the scale, this will highlight key information and prevent your presentation from sounding too monotone.

Step 11: If you can’t answer a question, admit it!

Don’t make up facts, as you’ll get found out and it can undermine your credibility. Simply say that you’ll come back to them with the answer and be sure to do so!

Step 12: Enjoy it!

When it comes to presenting, remember: if you prep well, you’ll perform well. Ride on the buzz and enjoy it!

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