You’ve probably heard by now that public speaking is feared by most people. According to the statistics, we’d rather go to the dentist, or walk around in tight shoes with blistered feet.
Presenting doesn’t have to be an anxiety-ridden experience. Here’s how to nail it.
A fear of public speaking or giving presentations seems to be a common one – and while it has its challenges to master, it is a necessary part of most people’s corporate and entrepreneurial careers at some stage.
Technology and social media have changed the way we do business and the way we interact with our teams, customers, and clients – and there’s an increasing emphasis on being able to present with confidence. It’s just not good enough to say “Ummm I’m too shy,” anymore – being able to present and speak in public are critical skills for success.
The good news is that in reality top presenters are not born — they’re made. I discovered this when I interviewed scores of successful business people for my bestselling book: ‘Well Said: How to be Heard in Business and Generate Real Influence’.
Only One Rule
There is just one simple thing you need to remember to be good at connecting with an audience: your presentation is not about you.
It’s easy to get caught up in the key message, the right words, how we look, whether or not we have spinach in our teeth or remembered to shine our shoes, etc = how we present ourselves needs serious consideration, but when it comes to the presentation itself, you need to forget yourself and embrace your audience. Eye contact, smiling at a friendly face in the room and making sure you are slowing down your breathing to be fully present in your body are all great ways to start that audience connection.
Many people overlook this very simple principle – and yet it’s the golden rule that will help you deliver killer presentations. Every. Single. Time. Whether it’s a new business pitch to a potential client, a keynote to a conference, or a snapshot of your achievements to snare a pay rise or a promotion.
Acknowledging that the audience (whether it’s one person or a thousand people) matters most of all also can help to stem any nervousness, so it’s a good rule to remember. They came to hear your experiences and learn from you so be kind to yourself at that moment when nerves may kick in.
Here’s another fact that not many people know: Most of your audience will only hear and retain 30 percent of what you actually say.
When you think about it, you can most likely relate this to yourself – even the most focused of us have minds that tend to wander … to the “to do” list, to the work phone call you had earlier in the day, to a meeting that’s coming up you need to prepare for. Sometimes we’re just admiring the surroundings or the speaker’s shoes and suddenly we’ve tuned out!
Now, that doesn’t mean you should just wing it! (Unless you’re TOTALLY confident that you can…).
Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance
Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
Remember that little gem from high school? Well now is the time to put it into action.
When you are preparing, think carefully about the following:
- What is your aim? What outcome do you want? What do you want your audience to know? Distill this chief aim into a few words, or a sentence.
- Who is the most important person in the room? You can never appeal to all people, all of the time … So who is it you really want to connect with? If you don’t know anything about this VIP, then create an Avatar – Charles, 50, CEO, Elanor mid-30s HR Manager, etc. You can be as elaborate as you like. Then when you have this person in mind, step into their shoes and anticipate how you can appeal to them, solve their problem, and answer their questions.
- Lastly, edit – edit your messages. And then edit them again. Get clear. Avoid jargon and big words – speak in a way that people can easily understand.
Write no more than three key messages (sometimes one is enough). This should be easy after you’ve followed steps 1 and step 2, because you as you know WHY you are speaking, and WHO you need to get action from. This means it is easier to clarify WHAT you have to say. Structure your presentation around this key message, related to your chief aim, with your VIP in mind.
Other tips to remember:
- Relax! Before you begin, take a few deep breaths, and really plant your feet on the ground, feel solid. From that point, you can rise.
- Repetition is good, use it moderately and in key places.
- Keep checking in with your audience – use eye contact.
- Be personal – tell an anecdote or share an experience – make yourself relatable.
- Silence is powerful and it can really emphasize a point.
Make the connection
People connect with people … Yes, they feel inspired by ideas, empowered by information, or amused by humour, but ultimately to be a successful presenter you need to be authentic to get your messages across so they can stir thoughts and emotions in your audience. So don’t be shy about letting your passion, drive, and charm show. Be yourself.
Remember too, that over-rehearsing can be a pitfall. Make sure you rehearse enough to be confident with your material, but not so much that you sound robotic or impersonal, or so much that you won’t be able to cope if something goes wrong – if your slides don’t move on, the microphone cuts out, taking a curly question from the audience – these things happen and being able to go with the flow is not always easy for beginners, but as you gain experience in presenting, then these won’t be a big deal at all.
Remember that real
confidence comes from knowing exactly what you want to say – not necessarily word-for-word, but in terms of your chief aim … then you can let your presentation unfold.
Get professional help – keep building your skills
I firmly believe that most people – even the most seasoned professionals – can benefit from some speech writing assistance and presentation coaching
from time to time.
It’s important to build skills and keep enhancing them. And different platforms require different attributes – for example, video is all about facial expression, body language, AND what you’re saying. When it comes to podcasts
, you can’t use non-verbal cues, so your voice needs to convey more expression and emotion than it would in a usual conversation.
It’s always helpful to watch (or listen to) other speakers you admire and to emulate some of their attributes, but having professional help means that you can really pinpoint areas you want to improve in. A coach might pick up on little nuances that you’re not even aware of, things that will make a difference between being a good presenter and a GREAT one!
If we can help you get your presentation nailed, please contact us