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.
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.
Public speaking skills are highly sought after by organizations. If you are a talented presenter, it is a great skill to list on a resume—even if you aren’t a professional speaker. If you are a professional speaker, you should be getting the word out about your skill. Here are some great tips to market yourself:
- Publicize your availability. People may not know that you are interested in speaking. Mention to your boss that you’d be open to offering customer demonstrations or to training a new group of employees. If you are a professional speaker, create a website advertising your services, and provide a schedule of your availability.
- Use social media. Use sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to announce that you are available to speak on specific subjects. Also post updates about sessions you recently led.
- Add the skill to your resume and social media profiles. Being an outstanding public speaker is considered a rare skill. It can make you stand out from the pack and lead to jobs that offer you the potential to address a crowd regularly.
- Ask for reviews and recommendations. After you give a presentation, ask your audience members to write a testimony or to recommend you on LinkedIn. Those firsthand accounts can seal the deal when people are looking for keynote speakers for their own events.
- Write articles. Submit articles or blog posts in your area of expertise to appropriate media outlets. Many content producers accept article submission or guest blog posts. You may even want to consider creating your own blog or weekly e-newsletter if you plan to speak professionally. It’s a great way to share your knowledge with people—and keep your name and services in front of them.
- Work pro bono. Consider presenting for free an audio conference or webinar. It gives you practice, but more important, it offers you exposure and the opportunity to showcase your speaking talents, which can lead to paid gigs.
Don’t rely on words alone when you want people to pay attention to your message. Pictures increase the likelihood that they will read, understand and act on your instructions.
A study that compared different forms of instructions given to emergency room patients shows the powerful impact pictures have. One set of patients received written instructions only, and another set received the same instructions accompanied by cartoon drawings.
The people who received instructions with images:
- Were more likely to read the instructions, 98% compared to 79% who received only text.
- Understood better. When they were asked questions about the instructions, more than 45% received perfect scores. Just 6% of patients who received text only answered every question correctly.
- Complied with directions. Only half of the text-only group followed the directions for daily wound care, compared to three-quarters of the group that had images too.
— Adapted from “See What I Mean,” Ann Wylie, Wylie Communications Inc., http://www.wyliecomm.com.
The performance of on-stage technology is notoriously finicky. Even low-tech presentations can be undone by poor- or nonperforming technology. Use these 3 tips to help ensure your next presentation is tech-stress free:
- Use your own power cables and adapters. Everyone has a story about scrambling to find the right display adapter 10 minutes before going on stage. Don’t assume the venue has the cables you need. Bring your own, and for good measure, bring a backup set as well.
- Plan for an offline presentation. If you are relying on wireless connectivity to demo a product or show a video, don’t. While you might be pleasantly surprised by a strong wireless signal, having a locally hosted software demo or video preloaded on your laptop is a best practice.
- Use a handheld microphone if possible. Lapel and behind-the-ear mics are snazzy, but a handheld microphone gets you out from behind the podium and gives you a focal point for your hands.
—Adapted from “A Few Tricks About Public Speaking and Stage Technology,” , Mozilla Developer Network evangelist, christianheilmann.com.
To improve your speech, take a video of yourself practicing. As you watch, choose a 60-second portion that you would like to improve. Concentrate heavily on just that section until you’ve achieved the results you want. Move on to another portion, improving your delivery one minute at a time.
— Adapted from “Improve Your Presentations and Public Speaking 60 Seconds at a Time,” Melanie Pinola, http://www.lifehacker.com.
Improve the quality of your presentations by specifically asking your audience for feedback on what you did and didn’t do well.
Example: Create a slide that asks for opinions on which parts of your presentation could be shortened or lengthened, and insert it at the very end of your deck, right before you give out your contact information.
Tailor the slide to the audience, and avoid requesting generic feedback. Ask participants to email you directly or to speak with you after the presentation to share their thoughts. Then incorporate what you learn into the next version of your presentation.