Copyright 2005 Larry Tracy
I recently posted an article providing tips on public speaking for internet marketers, and was bombarded with Emails asking me to expand on one tip in particular—how to conduct a Murder Board, a realistic simulated practice. I did so in a follow-up article providing a more detailed explanation of this practice method, which has its origins in US military. Now, below, I provide seven step method to conduct this invaluable practice. This is excerpted from Chapter 14 of my book, The Shortcut to Persuasive Presentations.
To have a successful and productive Murder Board enabling you to hone your skills and anticipate difficult questions and comments requiring a response, I have found seven separate steps must be followed.
1. Recruiting 2. Sharing audience Intelligence 3. Role-playing by participants 4. Video-taping and/or audio-taping 5. Critique of presenter's Style and Substance 6. Recording on cards of all questions asked 7. Revision of presentation
Let's take a look at each of these steps.
In recruiting people to be on your Murder Board, best place to start is with knowledgeable colleagues. Request no more than four of these colleagues to be your simulated audience.
Keep in mind, however, that if these colleagues think that objective of Murder Board is only to help you look good, they probably will not want to give up their valuable time. You must give them an incentive tied to their self-interest.
They will have their own priorities. You should frame your request in such a way that these colleagues see a potential dividend accruing to them by investing their time. Remember from your own experience that "What's in it for me?" is prime motivator for people to take action. You must find a way to have these colleagues believe they will gain some benefit by being in your simulated audience.
Reciprocity is key. My advice is to recruit only people who themselves will speak in public.. Then you say, "If you will be on my Murder Board now, I will be on yours when you must make a presentation." Presto. They see a potential benefit in future by spending some time with you now.
2. Sharing Audience Intelligence
Because purpose of a Murder Board is to create an environment for presenter similar to actual situation to be faced, it is important that those playing members of audience be armed with as much information about this audience as possible.
Participants must be steeped in details of issue being presented so they can put themselves in mental framework of people who will be in your actual audience. Information on personal styles, idiosyncrasies, temperament, etc. of these audience members provides insight into how they will react to certain comments or proposals. Your colleagues can better role-play if they have this information. The more you know about personalities of audience members, less surprised you will be in presentation.
3. Role-playing by participants
The success or failure of a Murder Board ultimately depends on its realism. The closer it is to real thing, better prepared will be presenter. This realism, to a great degree, depends on ability of your colleagues to get into heads of key players in your actual audience.
This does not mean having a great gift for acting or mimicry; but it does mean trying to think like people in audience so that statements made by presenter will provoke questions likely to be asked by actual audience.
After sharing all intelligence gained on audience, and eliciting from participants any insights they have on these people, assign specific roles to participants. If you are presenting to senior executives, you most certainly want a person to play key decision maker.
4. Video-taping / audio-taping
The actual conduct of Murder Board is likely to not run smoothly, with various interruptions and discussions. Moreover, presenter cannot be expected to remember all comments, bits of advice, and questions asked. Consequently, much of spontaneous, valuable information could be lost, even if someone is taking careful notes.