More than half of Americans would rather die than speak publicly. This means more than half of Americans willingly reject incredible opportunities to share their best ideas with a captive audience - opportunities that could prove to be career-changers.
Luckily, being comfortable with public speaking is not something some people have and others don’t. It is a skill, like riding a bike, that can be developed. All it takes is some time to organize, practice, and adjust one’s perceptions. Here, I’ve outlined 10 key tips from MindEdge courses Public Speaking: Command the Audience and Rethinking Presentation Slides to help you CRUSH your next presentation.
1) Understand Your Audience. Some of the worst presentations are the result of the speaker not fully understanding the age, interests, and expectations of their audience. Be sure you ask questions about your audience before composing your speech. Who are they? What do they do? What do they want to know about your topic and why?
2) Know What You’re Going To Say. Public speakers, especially those who are passionate about their topic, have been known to speak about a facet of their topic that they like best, regardless of its relevance to their audience. Once you have a clear idea of who your audience is, make sure your speech targets their specific experience and interests.
3) Keep Slides Simple. PowerPoint and other slideshow programs provide a lot of flashy templates and ‘clicky-clicky-bling-bling’. While it may be tempting to rely on these to keep your audience engaged, resist the urge! Instead, create your own templates with plain, single colored backgrounds and complementary colors for title and body text. Use appropriate pictures to enhance engagement with your topics.
4) Utilize Selective Redundancy. Every individual has a different learning preference. Some of us learn best by reading or seeing, some of us learn best by hearing, and some of us learn best by doing. Accommodating more than one learning style at a time in your presentation will help you to reach more audience members and increase retention in those audience members.
5) Tailor Your Presentation Structure to Audience Needs. “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you told them.” This piece of advice has withstood the test of time because it works. Introduce your topic to the audience, take them through each of the thoughts you present in your introduction with more detail, and then summarize.
6) Revise at 3 Levels. Making your presentation perfect in one editing session is daunting, and usually doesn’t work. Instead, try first revising your presentation or speech structure, then revise the content, and finally go back and proofread for spelling and punctuation errors.
7) Use Outlines Effectively. Stop lying to yourself! Printing out the entirety of your speech and calling it an outline is just that, a lie. Effective outlines are an organization tool for you and should only include the minimum guidelines for you to stay on track. Challenge yourself to only include the titles of stories, key details, names, and statistics.
8) Don’t Memorize. Trying to present a speech you memorized is one of the best ways to ensure an on-stage freakout. Missing just one word or paraphrasing a line can cause you to lose your place. As you struggle to remember what comes next, your palms will begin to sweat and your legs will start to shake. Avoid this presentation ‘no-no’ by internalizing the content of your presentation without memorizing it. Your audience will thank you.
9) Don’t Give Your Anxiety Center Stage. Presenters who focus on fear often neglect their audience. How can you thoughtfully address the needs of your audience when you’re too busy worrying about your experience as a presenter? Instead of making your presentation about you - how you look, how you sound, how you feel - try to focus your energy on delivering your message to the audience. Are they getting it? Are they engaged? Shifting this perspective will help you be a more focused, engaging and helpful speaker.
10) Be Willing to Adapt the Rules. Before he brought his cubist figures to the canvas, Pablo Picasso mastered classical painting techniques. In the same way, in order to become the next Steve Jobs, you must first perfect the art of giving a more traditional presentation. Once you have the basics down, don’t be afraid to begin experimenting with different speaking or presentation styles.
For more detailed information, exercises and case studies around these tips, be sure to check out the two MindEdge courses listed in the introduction.
What’s one public speaking tip that has helped you go from a sweaty-palmed amateur speaker to a cool, calm, collected Toastmaster? Let us know in the comments.