Public speaking is not always the easiest to deal with. For a lucky few, it’s a walk in the park; though for others, it’s hell. Whatever your take, in the business world, you are at some point or another going to have bite the bullet, speak to a room of people, and keep them engaged throughout.
If you’re one of the lucky people who are unphased by addressing an audience, whether it be a small team of colleagues or prospects, or a larger group, the art of public speaking can be an enjoyable process. If you’re the opposite, don’t fret; taking to the stage doesn’t have to be something that keeps you awake at night.
With some careful planning beforehand, you can make the process a lot easier for yourself, reduce the stress and, perhaps, find the process enjoyable too! It pays to be prepared; both you and your audience will be thankful if you take the time to prepare.
Sum it up before you start: Be clear about what you want to talk to your audience about from the off – they’ll understand why they’re sat in front of you, and it will help you maintain the flow and pace of your presentation. Avoid rambling and letting them know the essentials 15 minutes in, you’ll run the risk of losing their attention and create confusion. Tell them your objectives, alongside how your insights and what you’re about to present will be a benefit them, as early in to the session as you can.
Tell a story: An anecdote can help to your content into perspective. Some people digest information better when they’re able to apply it to a real-life scenario. If you’re able to do this, feed it in to the early stages of your presentation and use them throughout.
Frame it: Let your audience know how the presentation will flow. Whether it’s an hour, a half-day, or a daylong session, letting them know how it is likely to pan out will help maintain their attention. Bring some order, set bench markers, and let them know what topics will be covered when and how.
Make it your own: Apply some of your own personality to your approach. Presentations are commonplace in the majority of people’s working days – make yours stand out. Don’t be another person pointing in front of a PowerPoint, projector or flip board. Make yours memorable and different.
Nerves are good, complacency is bad: Don’t panic if you’re nervous – it’s human. The majority of people fear they will be judged for showing their nerves, but in the majority of cases, this is rarely ever the case. You’ll often find that once you’re in the flow of the presentation, your nerves will fade away quite quickly – take control and don’t let them get the better of you.
Care about what you’re saying: You want your audience to walk out of the room as interested in your topic as you are. Show them that you’re passionate about your specialism, tell them why it’s exciting and be excited – a little enthusiasm can go a long way.
Be creative: Don’t be shy of taking a different approach. Yes, the likes of PowerPoint can be a useful visual tool to carry a session – though there are plenty of other options available. Would a well-produced video help to convey your messages better, perhaps? Avoid falling in to the trap of ‘playing it safe’. Be bold.
One of the most engaging presentations that I helped a client with recently was when she walked into the hall with three big pieces of paper – think 1m square post-it notes with one big word written on each. They were the main points of her talk, and the simplicity of the process registered very well with the audience.
Whatever you want to say, and whoever you’re saying it to; make sure you plan, prepare and perform, or put another way.
Be prepared, be engaging, be creative, and enjoy the process.
Neil Crespin is creative director and owner at mcm creative group.