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.
Giving a presentation or speaking in public can be a nerve-wracking experience. It’s OK to be nervous. However, you can take steps to build your public speaking confidence.
If you find yourself panicking before you present, remember one important rule: Never apologize for being nervous! Apologizing in advance for your nerves undermines your credibility and sends a subconscious message to your audience that you are lacking confidence in yourself and the message you’re trying to share.
Even worse is apologizing for being underprepared. No one in the audience needs to know that you had to step in and present on another person’s behalf or that you were so busy you prepared at the last minute.
Furthermore, if you confess that your presentation isn’t good because of a lack of preparation, your audience members could resent that you are wasting their time with a bad presentation.
Be direct about any miscues or stumbles, and move right on. Attempting to endear yourself to the audience by revealing and apologizing for your last-minute preparations almost always backfires. Don’t do it.
Some speakers script every speech, memorizing each word and gesture. Others speak in the moment, relying on the setting to influence their choices. Which approach is best?
Strategy: Choose from both approaches. The best speakers know a natural style of speaking helps them connect with audiences, but they also know most natural deliveries result from careful planning and practice.
Commit these areas of your speech to memory:
- The opening. Set the stage with a carefully planned and rehearsed opening.
- Humor. When you tell a joke, the setup is important and the punch line is critical. Mess up the words, and you kill the laughs.
- Transitions. Build dynamic bridges between different areas of your speech, and you control the flow and organization and also tie the entire talk together.
- The outline. Memorize an outline of your key points until you can recite it word for word. That helps you avoid losing your place, especially if unexpected events interfere with your speech.
- The close. Your call to action should be precisely crafted for maximum impact.
So what is left? About 75% of your speech should consist of stories, backup details and gestures that are not scripted. That leaves you room to connect with your audience and deliver a personalized speech every time.
-Adapted from ”Should You Memorize Your Speech?” by John Kinde.
If the thought of delivering a presentation to a large audience fills you with dread, you’re hardly alone. When we asked readers “Which speaking situations do you find difficult?” 64% said “Presenting to a large group.”
Whether you are speaking to five people or 5,000, careful preparation and rehearsals will allow you to speak with greater confidence. When you are speaking to a large group, take these actions too:
- Speak to individuals. Instead of facing a room full of strangers, connect with as many people as possible before you speak. Interview members of the group as you prepare your remarks, and arrive early to chat with attendees as they enter the room. If you are speaking at a conference, mingle with people in the day or two before you speak. Then you will be able to make eye contact with people you know, mention audience members by name and integrate their anecdotes into your remarks.
- Move around. If the room setup permits, walk around during your presentation, spending a few moments in every section. Walk as you make a transition, and then stop to deliver your point.
- Take a break. Ease some of the pressure on yourself and make the presentation more interesting for the audience by not speaking the entire time. Plan an exercise the audience can complete in small groups, share the stage with another presenter or show a video clip to illustrate one of your points.
Speaking on stage is challenging enough. You face a whole new challenge when you present a webinar or conduct a virtual meeting. Follow these suggestions for success:
- Control your voice. Because listeners cannot see you, you must paint pictures with your words. Speak slowly and clearly, varying your pitch, volume and intonation to maintain interest.
- Show enthusiasm. Maintain high energy and smile when you speak—although no one may see you, your smile will “show” in your voice.
- Trust your technology. Don’t say things like “I hope this works” or “Let’s see if this thing will cooperate today.” That will make participants wonder about the technology’s effectiveness. You do not want to plant any seeds of doubt.
- Use questions effectively. Allow “think time” before you call for responses. Give people time to reflect and process new information. Call for responses after 30 seconds or so.
- Build in interactivity. Every three to five minutes, ask your audience to do something. Ask a question, give them something to read and respond to, invite their comments and questions, and so on. That will ensure involvement.
— Adapted from “Preparing for Virtual Presentations,” The Rocky Mountain Center for Health Promotion and Education, http://www.rmc.org/.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com.
As a speaker, you should never attempt to sound “professional” or like someone else. Develop and use your own voice. Being yourself makes it easier to relate to the audience and, more important, easier for the audience to relate to you. Enjoy yourself; your listeners will pick up on any discomfort you are feeling. Confidence and enthusiasm are crucial; without them, you almost guarantee that your listeners won’t connect with you.
— Adapted from “Best Quick Tips for Public Speakers,” halife.com.
Smart speakers—even experienced presenters—rely on a checklist to make sure they have all their bases covered before they take to the podium. Use these guidelines as you:
Plan your presentation.
- Know your audience. Consider age, language, abilities, knowledge, etc.
- Know your purpose. Is your presentation appropriate?
- Know your venue. What facilities and amenities are available?
- Know your budget.
- Know your timeline. How much preparation and practice time will you have?
Structure your presentation.
- Identify three things your audience should understand or remember. Then make sure those things are clear and memorable.
- Check your logic. Information should be presented in a logical sequence.
- Clarify examples. Offer sufficient evidence to illustrate difficult or key points.
- Consider handouts. Do you have enough? Are they relevant and accurate?
- Examine your visuals. Do they enhance or detract from the presentation? Do you know how to work them? Do you have a backup?
Practice your presentation.
- Check the clock. Can you deliver your key points within the time limit? Did you allow for audience questions?
- Read or recite your presentation until you can speak clearly and confidently and with sufficient volume and confidence.
- Eliminate jargon, clichés and timeworn phrases.
- Anticipate likely questions and objections. Prepare answers up front and practice delivering them.
— Adapted from “Become a Natural Presenter With This Simple Oral Presentation Checklist,” Lyndsay Swinton, Management for the Rest of Us, www.mftrou.com.