Speaking at events is a great way to enhance your status as an expert and generate PR for your business. However, becoming a great speaker is an art, not a science. The good news is that with some tips and some practice, you can leave a lasting impression that you will want people to remember.
Here are some easy ways that you can become a better speaker.
You may think that the best way to give a flawless speech is to memorize the content word-for-word. But trying that can create a lot of problems for speakers. Memorization not only lends itself to sounding over-rehearsed (aka not natural), but also, if your mind goes blank at any point during the presentation, you will lose your place and potentially create an awkward silence. Or worse, start to panic.
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Instead of memorizing the content, focus on the concepts. Do this by creating bullet points of the content, stories, data and key takeaways that you want to get across in each part of your presentation. Then, speak naturally about them. If you remember all of those key points, great, but if you forget some, no sweat -- you can move on to another point.
Having a looser structure also gives you the flexibility to revise stories, takeaways and information during each speech based on the audience make-up and response. Plus, as an extra bonus, you will deliver a more natural sounding, engaging presentation.
Meeting with the people you are going to be speaking to before you give your speech has several benefits. First, it warms them up to you. Second, it lets you gauge their sense of humor, which is particularly critical if you are a speaker that tends to let a curse word fly or uses bold and provocative stories or language. Finally, you can glean insights to incorporate into your presentation.
It’s incredibly effective to use audience members as examples or transitions in a speech because it creates intimacy with the audience and more engagement. If you are talking to small-business owners about marketing and Joanne, for example, told you a great story about how she used an unusual marketing tactic, incorporate Joanne and her story into your presentation. “Speaking of clever marketing, earlier I was talking to Joanne, who is sitting in the third row, and she told me how she used a PR stunt with 400 kittens to get new clients…”
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I think most speakers know to not read directly from slides (and if you didn’t before, you do now). If you do use slides during your presentation, use them in an unexpected way. Include a short, fun video or use some photos with humor.
I saw one presenter who, when he was talking about how people want to do business with trusted brands, had a photo of a beat-up old van with “Want some candy?” spray painted on its side to illustrate why you don’t do business with strangers. Another keynote I went to recently had a DJ who changed the music to underscore themes for the story. Or even consider having an illustrator create some great art for key messages. At least evaluate having your presentation slides created professionally. These tactics can take your entire presentation up a level.
Even the most seasoned speakers can get nervous prior to presenting. The most effective way to take the pressure off of you is to change your mindset and think about your audience rather than yourself or the speech. Remember that you are there to provide them with valuable information and if the audience members leave with one or two new items, reminders or a new perspective, you have made it worth their while. Focusing on being helpful or in service of the audience, instead of on yourself, can help you to relax.
One of the best speakers around is Michael Port, who takes audience participation to a new level. During his presentations, he has the audience repeat key messages back to him or make gestures back of the takeaway points of his speech. This keeps the audience involved, but even more brilliantly, it gives them devices to remember the material. I often will stop in the middle of the speech to ask audience members to throw out examples of ideas that I present as well.
As you plan your speech, think about where you can involve the audience and what devices you can use to involve them in the presentation so that you are talking with them, not just to them.
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