When I teach presentation skills to professionals, whether in a seminar or through my personal training, I explain the long-standing theater phrase, “Illusion of the first time.” This is the meaning: when an actor acts in a play for the tenth, hundredth, or thousand times, he should create the illusion that it is the first time the actor has said these words, used these gestures and facial expressions, or thought these thoughts. Superlative actors create this response no matter how many times they repeat what they have done before.

I recently watched piano genius Marty Henne perform his hour-long show, complete with wonderful music and his informative commentary on George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, and other musical giants. Marty and I were traveling together aboard the Regatta, a luxury ship on Oceania Cruise Line. Marty was the featured entertainer and I was the special enrichment teacher.

Now, back to Marty’s show. He had attended the same show when Marty performed on the Radisson Diamond Cruise Ship, where he too was speaking, fifteen months earlier. Although Marty’s performance at the Regatta was pretty much the same word-for-word I heard at the Diamond over a year ago, the Regatta audience felt that his words, non-verbal communication and songs from him were spontaneous.

The next morning at breakfast, Marty and I agreed that the speakers needed to establish that same “it’s happening now for the first time” vivacity. Keep this in mind the next time you face an audience, especially when you’re delivering a message you’ve previously given. The message may be old to you, but remember that it is brand new to these listeners and should look new. They will stop listening if they feel a repetition, but they will remain very attentive when you speak energetically, with the same enthusiasm you would use to share good news with a close friend.

How do you achieve that aura of freshness? Consider these four steps:

o Select a topic that captivates you, one that will continue to excite you after hours of preparation.

o Do not memorize your speech. He will sound like a reciter, rather than an individual who wants to convincingly share his thoughts.

o Focus on remembering and sharing key words and main points. The exact wording is not that important. Your listeners will want to get the impression that you are speaking “off the spur of the moment,” even if you have prepared thoroughly.

o Imagine having a conversation with one person and talk like that to your audience, which is nothing more than a collection of people. Marty Henne made this statement during our breakfast conversation, and I agree.

By following these guidelines, you’ll give your audiences the “first time thrill” they expect, deserve, and will applaud.

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