Presentations are a lot like dating

Ah Valentines Day! The holiday made up by greeting card companies to give happy couples something to look forward to between Christmas and the long slog to spring.

Whether you’re happily coupled, celebrating Singles Awareness Day or boycotting the whole stupid mess, one thing is for sure we’ve all been on lousy dates.

What was your worst date ever?

My worst date spent the evening complaining about his job, never asking me a question, and watching Star Wars: Episode One (Jar-Jar Binks anyone?).

The best date lasted for well over 24 hours and nearly seven years of bliss (and counting). I realized that dating and public speaking have quite a bit in common.

A good speech like a good date is fun and exciting. A bad presentation like a bad date can end in bitter disappoint. In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are 5 ways speaking is a lot like dating.

Butterflies zooming in your stomach

It’s natural to be nervous before a big first date (or a second or third). You’re excited to see the other person and excited by the possibilities of it all. You’re also nervous that your date will hate you.

Sound familiar to your last presentation? You get butterflies in your tummy before a big speech for many of the same reasons (excited, worried, etc). The nerves are natural they are just the by-product of adrenaline coursing through your veins. You need a plan to handle the nerves that doesn’t include running off the stage so you can appear cool and confident on the outside while feeling the nerves within.

Look sharp

Nothing like your date showing up in a tattered Led Zeppelin t-shirt and cut-offs. Nothing says I don’t want to be dating you like bad hygiene and poor grooming!

Likewise, nothing tells an audience you don’t care quite like when you don’t dress up for a speech. I’m not suggesting wearing a 3 piece suit or a pencil skirt when you speak (I tend to rock my Bettie Page best for speaking gigs), but dress for the audience and occasion. It’s a sure-fire way to make a great first impression.

To quote the formidable sages, ZZ Top “Every girl’s crazy for a sharped dress man.”

Get flirtatious

Flirting is how your date that your interested. You lean forward, smile, stare dreamily into their eyes and laugh. It grabs your date’s attention.

As a speaker you need to capture your audience’s attention out of the gate. The first 30-seconds must grab them, pique their interest and leave them dying to hear the rest of your speech. More importantly stay away from these opening that suck and write a mind-blowing one instead.

Not only do you need to create a grab them by the seat of their pants opening, it’s important to tease the audience. Tease them with what is coming next in your speech. Think “I’m about to give you the best secret to (your topic)” and then tell a story that leads to the secret. Now that’s a tease.

Take an interest

“Enough about you. Let’s talk about me.” Yeah, I had a guy say this to me during our one an only date after I dared to change the subject to something I was interested in for 30 seconds.

Dating 101 – don’t talk about yourself the whole time! Ask questions about the other person, talk about popular culture, current events to show you are interested in them, the world, and not just solely in yourself.

The same advice is easily applied to a presentation. A speech is NOT about you! It’s about the audience. Be obsessed (not in a stalker way) about your audience). Get to know them before a presentation. Show up early and mingle with the audience. Solve their big challenges. Provide them with a crazy amount of value.

Take action

The date goes great, but waiting by the phone for it to ring sucks! Relationship experts suggest that if you have a good date, then take action and ask for the next date. No 3-day cooling off period. Your date goes great then, but on your brave, brave girl (or boy) pants and ask to see the person again.

In speaking, we want to leave the audience with something they can do, know or feel. You need a killer call to action that moves the audience and doesn’t leave them hanging wondering what to do next.

Leave your date and your audience with a plan for action!

Happy Valentine’s Day or Happy Single Awareness Day!

How do you plan to date your audience in your next presentation? Dish it up in the comments below.