Recover after a terrible speech

Rather than becoming deflated after botching a speech, recognize and fix your mistakes to become a stronger speaker next time around.

Start by analyzing your technique. Objectively review a recording of your failed speech, or ask a trusted colleague who heard your presentation to give honest feedback. Scrutinize body language, vocal tone and energy level. Identify words that needed more emphasis and ideas that needed more explanation.

In addition to noting what you did wrong, note what you did well. Build on your effective techniques and find a way to use any bad habits to your advantage.

Example: If you utter too many filler words, “ums” and “uhs,” practice pausing and being silent instead. That will make you appear thoughtful.

— Adapted from “How to Recover From a Disastrous Speech,” George Dixon, Presentation Magazine, http://www.presentationmagazine.com.

Presentation tactics for webinars

These days, public speakers are turning to webinars in place of in-person presentations. And why not? That technology is cheaper and more convenient than traveling on-site to give presentations. That said, because of the format, you risk losing your audience’s attention more quickly than in an in-person presentation. People aren’t likely to be rude to your face, but if they are joining in from another location, there’s not much keeping them from checking their email, working on assignments—or even dozing off.

Follow these tips to make your next webinar presentation an engaging one:

  • Personalize the experience. Seventy-two hours prior to the webinar send a personal email reminder to each attendee and include any handouts. Ask them to send you their questions at least 24 hours prior to the event. That way you can ensure that you answer all of their questions during your presentation. The morning of the webinar, send them a short, friendly message like “Looking forward to connecting with you during the webinar today!” that will serve as a gentle reminder.
  • Don’t send your presentation slides beforehand. If attendees have the slides, they may not have a reason to listen to you. Instead, create a worksheet, using a combination of fill-in-the-blank, multiple-choice and essay questions that they can use to follow along and take notes. That ensures that they are actively listening and homing in on your key points.
  • Answer questions throughout your presentation. Rather than save the Q&A for the end of the presentation, offer attendees the opportunity to ask questions during your presentation. Every 10 minutes or so, ask attendees if they have questions so far. Immediately answer those questions. If the answer will come later in the presentation, let them know that. For off-topic questions, say that you aren’t discussing that topic today but that you will respond in an email following the webinar.
  • Ask attendees questions. Poll the group or call out attendees by names (you should compile and print that list prior to the webinar). Aim to integrate a question to the audience every 4-5 slides. People will stay focused on the presentation because they don’t want to get caught not paying attention.

—Adapted from “4 Tips for Hosting an Engaging Webinar Strategy,” Tiffani Frey, Business 2 Community, http://www.business2community.com.

Quick tip: Stop dwelling on mistakes

Stop dwelling on your occasional misstep and focus instead on your success as a speaker. Photocopy your certificates of achievement, copies of positive evaluations from previous speeches and testimonials from clients and friends. Pull together everything that makes you feel good about yourself as a speaker. Use that material to create a book of your speaking successes, and refer to it when you need inspiration before you take the stage.

—Adapted from “How to Write and Deliver an Outstanding Speech,” www.speakingandmarketingtips.com.

How to clarify technical information

Overcome the perils of confusing and losing your audience when presenting complicated concepts.

Excessive information and details can baffle the audience, while oversimplifying ideas loses your point and patronizes listeners. Strike a balance and keep your audience engaged by following these guidelines:

  • Define terms and acronyms to lay the proper groundwork.
  • Present the conclusion first, not the evidence. Then provide just enough proof to support your findings.
  • Break down concepts into smaller, more easily understood parts, and explain each one.
  • Demonstrate your product or procedure while explaining each element or step.
  • Gauge audience comprehension by asking for questions every 8-10 minutes.
  • Offer details after your presentation, in the form of support materials that you hand out, email or post online.

—Adapted from “Don’t Dumb It Down,” Christopher Witt, Communication Matters,http://christopherwitt.com.

Wow audience members—after your presentation

If you want to make a lasting impression on your audience, stay in character even after you have delivered your closing statement. Do the following:

  • Hold yourself accountable for your words. Stick around to answer questions, address concerns, pose for pictures or simply chat with audience members. If you don’t run and hide immediately following your presentation, you’ll show that you stand behind your words—enough so to face any negativity that might be headed your way.
  • Keep your performer face on. During those minutes following your presentation, maintain the professionalism you exhibited on stage. When people congratulate you on a job well done, graciously accept. Don’t point out your flaws or talk about how nervous you were. You don’t want to diminish the audience’s perception of you with self-deprecating comments.
  • Follow up. Find a good reason to contact attendees following the presentation. If you didn’t know something during the presentation, send an email with the answer. Or mail or email audience members additional information relevant to the presentation. One easy way to make that connection is to resend electronic copies of the presentation visuals.

Note: Whenever you do reach out to audience members, invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn or to follow you on Facebook or Twitter.

Draft a more engaging speech

Giving an effective presentation depends largely upon how well you know your audience. As you write your speech, ask these questions:

  • Who are they? Are you speaking to younger or older people or a mix? If you’re dealing with a mixture of ages and backgrounds, speak directly to certain parts of your audience at times. Example: “Some of you folks born before 1980 may remember …”
  • What do they know? What kind of knowledge do your attendees have? Are they well-versed in your topic? Do they have the needed background details? Will you need to simplify your message?
  • Why should they care? What benefit are you offering your audience? Consider the audience’s level of investment and their needs and wants; then cater to them.
  • How might they respond? Anticipate their questions and prepare answers ahead of time. If they could become negative, you may want to address potential objections upfront.

— Adapted from “Match Your Presentation to Your Audience,” Guest blogger, http://hbr.org.

Invite the audience to speak first

Engage your listeners by having them speak first. Pose a question for them to answer before you launch into your remarks. You can even display it on the screen as they enter the room, to start them thinking and talking with the people around them.

Then invite the audience to share their thoughts, concerns or experiences by answering the question in front of the group. That immediately involves them in what you have to say, building their interest.

Throughout your presentation, refer back to their comments to show that you listened to them and that what you have to say is relevant to their situations.

— Adapted from “Have Them at ‘Hello’” Elizabeth Mortensen, Forbes, http://www.forbes.com.