Apparently, public speaking is considered to be THE number one fear of the average person, somehow managing to beat death itself into second place. Jerry Seinfeld commented that this means that, at a funeral…“the average person would rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy!”
That’s crazy. It’s a powerful tool for developing credibility and a strong brand, making it a skill that is absolutely worth pursuing.
Here are a few tips to help you with public speaking and presentation.
Start small. Stay small.
Don’t start with an audience of 1000 of the brightest minds in the Northern Hemisphere. Aim for something a little more local or low-key. A school or college is often a great place to cut your public speaking teeth.
Secondly, rather than writing an enormous tome of a speech, try to think in terms of key points.
Put some structure in place so that your talk has a natural flow through these points, all the way from introduction through content and to a conclusion.
Create bullet points and key memorable items to guide you through.
Having a minimalistic approach to the speech also allows you to focus on engaging the audience, making eye contact, smiling and proving that you’re actually a human.
Whatever you do, don’t read you talk from your laptop, a slide deck or printer copy. That’s public reading, not public speaking.
There is nothing wrong with going for a walk, standing in your dining room or presenting to your spouse beforehand. Some constructive feedback will allow you to polish those minor points before you take to the platform.
Having a natural flow to your talk or presentation should allow you to easily ‘get into the way of it’ and move seamlessly between points.
Know your audience.
It’s always worth doing some research on your audience. Always be a glutton for context.
Knowing your audience not only helps you to deliver more value and connect better with them, but it also offers a psychological advantage in that you know that you know something about who you’re talking to.
Learning something about your audience eliminates some of the uncertainty.
Focus on connection.
It’s all too easy to think of public speaking or presenting as being a performance where it is all about you as an individual. It isn’t.
Think about your audience, their needs and how you can deliver maximum value to them in the short period of time that you have. It’s not about you. It’s about them.
By moving the focus away from you and unto them, you take so much of the pressure away, you allow yourself to relax and you can make a better connection with your audience. Don’t worry about it. Do it.
Remember, the audience wants to receive value too, so that means that they want you to succeed! Unless you’re in the unfortunate position of speaking to a hostile audience…they’re on your side!
Finally, don’t be afraid to drop the pace down a notch or two. When you’re nervous, you tend to do two things, neither of which you should.
Firstly, you rush through the experience and speak far too fast. Just slow down and breathe. Speaking slowly can actually deliver a seriousness and thoughtfulness to your presentation that’s pretty valuable.
Secondly, you become scared of silences and fill them with ‘um’ or ‘err’, often without realising. This isn’t a good look. Don’t be afraid of moments of slight silence, which are much better than rushing or stuttering through your content. Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you can uses pauses and pacing to your own advantage and to amplify or emphasis certain points in your presentation.
We’ll take more in a later article about how to use timing, annunciation, engagement and structure to be more engaging and deliver more value to your audience.
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