Being able to capture the attention of an audience during a presentation is a skill that takes years to develop. By joining your local Rostrum Club you will have the opportunity to practice, learn from other members and receive coaching on how to improve your presentation skills.
If you have a presentation or speech coming up, here are some simple tips for preparing, practicing and improving your public speaking skills.
Don’t Defer Answering Questions
If someone asks you a question during the middle of your presentation that is awesome: it means that the person is engaged and listening. Seize the opportunity and engage with the audience member. If they raise a point that you were going to discuss later, bring it forward and discuss it now. A great presentation feels more like a conversation, so never ignore the opportunity to foster that sense of interaction. Don’t brush that person aside till later. This will disengage your audience.
Always Give the Audience Something to Take Home
Always provide something specific the audience can do almost immediately. No matter how inspiring you message, every audience appreciates learning a tangible way they can actually apply what they have learned to their own lives. Inspiration is great, but application is the best. Give practical advice people can take action on immediately.
Ask the Audience a Question You Can’t Answer
Asking questions to engage the audience often feels forced. Instead, ask a question you know the audience can’t answer. That its gets them thinking. You can then come in with a response such as “That’s okay, I can’t answer that either” Explain why you can’t, then go onto explain what you do know. Most speakers have all the answers. By being willing and able to admit that you don’t know all the answers, humanizes you and makes the audience pay great attention to what you do know.
Eat Right First
This may sound really silly, but to give a good speech, you need to have good brain fuel in the body. Include some protein in your meal before giving a presentation. This will help regulate the chemicals in your brain which influence mental alertness. Don’t leave your meal until the last minute either, because if you are nervous before your speech, the last thing you feel like doing is eating.
Focus On Your Fears and Make a Contingency Plan
If you get a sense of anxiety from public speaking and are worried about all the things that can go wrong. Tackle these perceived failures head on and come up with a contingency plan. Identify your two biggest fears and create a contingency plan. What will you do if your PowerPoint stuffs up? What will you do if you only have a few minutes to speak because the meeting funs long. The effort you put into coming up with contingencies the better, because thinking through all these different scenarios will allow you to think on your feet is something truly unexpected happens.
Establish a Pre-speech Routine
I don’t mean putting your left sock on before your right sock before a speech. That’s a superstition. Instead create a routine that allows you to become centered, emotionally before a speech. This may be walking the room before the meeting starts to check lines of site for audience members. Checking microphone levels. Running through your presentation at the venue to ensure its ready to go. Pick beneficial things and do them before every speech. That way you find comfort and confidence in the familiar.
Ways you can improve your presentations:
Share a Genuine Emotional Story
A lot of speakers will tell self-depreciating stories. However simply admitting a mistake is a waste if you only use it to highlight how far you have come. Instead, tell a story that lets your emotions show. If you were sad, say so. If you cried, say so. If you felt remorse, let it show. When you share genuine feelings with the audience you create an immediate and lasting connection with the audience. Emotion trumps speaking skills every time.
Use a Big Fat Pause
Pause for two or three seconds and audiences assume that you have lost your place, five seconds and they think the pause is intentional, after ten seconds even the people staring absent-mindedly off in the distance can’t help but look at you. When you first start speaking again the audience naturally assumes the pause was intentional… and that you are a confident and accomplished speaker. A poor speaker hates silence. Only confident speakers are secure with silence. Take one long pause to gather your thoughts and you will get the audience on your side.
Share Something No One Knows
Wow your audience with a surprising fact or an unusual analogy that relates to your topic. It will engage your audience and make them think. It also means that you and your presentation will stick in their head long after the speech is over.
Don’t sell the audience, Benefit Them
Most people assume that because you are up in front of an audience and you have their attention, if is a good chance to promote a product or service. This is wrong. Thinking in terms of sales only adds additional pressure to what is already a stressful situation. Put all you focus instead on ensuring the audience will benefit from what you have to say. Never try to accomplish more than one thing at a time. When you help people with your presentation, you have done all the selling you need to do.
What Not to Do:
Don’t Make Excuses
Due to insecurity, a lot of novice speakers open with an excuse: “I didn’t get much time to prepare, or “I was going to talk about this, but instead I am going to talk about…”. Excuses won’t make the audience want to cut you a break. But it will make them think, “then why are you wasting my time?” Don’t make excuses at the start of your speech. Portray confidence and get straight into it.
Don’t Do Your Preparation Onstage
Don’t wait until you are on stage to check the microphone, lighting, your PowerPoint remote or your presentation script. This needs to be done ahead of time. If unsure about what to do if something fails, speak with the people running the event/ function. If something does fail during your presentation, smile, act confident whilst you (or someone else) takes care of the problem. When things go wrong, what matters most is how you react.
Death by PowerPoint
Don’t ever read your slides. Your audience should almost instantly be able to scan your slides; if the actually read you might lose their attention from what you are saying. You will almost certainly lose them if you read your slides. Your slides should accentuate the main points of your speech. They should never be the point.
What to Start Doing Immediately:
Focus on EarningAttention
Instead of starting off with the please “switch off your mobile devices” – which no one ever does! Focus on earning the audience’s complete attention. Make your presentation so interesting, so entertaining and so inspiring that people can’t help but pay attention. It is not the audience’s job to listen; it is your job to make them want to listen.
Always Repeat Audience Questions
Unless microphones are available, rarely will everyone in the audience hear a question that another audience member asks. Always repeat the question and then answer it. It is not only courteous; it also provides you with a little more time to think of an excellent answer to the question!
Always Repeat Yourself
Your audience probably only hears about half of what you say, and they filter that half through their own perspectives and thought patterns. Create a structure in your presentation that allows you to repeat and reinforce key points. First, explain a point, then give examples of how that point can be applied, and at the end, provide audience action steps they can take based on that point. Since no one can remember everything you say, what you repeat has a much greater chance of being remembered – and acted upon.
Always, Always Run Short
If you have thirty minutes, take 25. If you have an hour, take 50. Always respect your audience’s time and end early. As a bonus, that forces you to hone your presentation and to prepare to shift gears if your presentation takes an unexpected turn. Finish early and ask if anyone has any questions. Of invite them to see you after the presentation. But never run long, because all the goodwill you would have built up during your speech would have been lost.
Hopefully, these 17 public speaking tips will help you in your next big presentation. If you would like to start practicing, drop into your local Rostrum WA Club to try some of these points out.