I love my work as a keynote motivational speaker. I am struck by people’s level of fear, anxiety and stress at the thought of having to present publicly. To be completely honest, as a guest speaker I suffer hugely from nerves before I perform or speak, despite speaking multiple times a week across webinars, live events, TV and radio. I still feel huge anxiety.
This very anxiety and nervousness allow me to produce my best. If you were to ask me for my top five tips for people who must present or speak in public. My top five would be practice, practice, practice, practice and practice.
Whether it’s making a cake, singing an aria, hanging a picture frame. Repetition will allow you to reduce errors and improve your performance. If I have a major presentation for an important client, I will frequently roll the same presentation out multiple times to iron out the creases as it were.
Very practical advice I would give you is try to be yourself. You might pick up tips, presentation style or speaking style by watching YouTube videos or other presenters .Remember there is only one of you and you’re truly unique. Do not arrive on time to speak. Be certain that you are early with a minimum of 35 to 40 minutes before you speak. Have your laptop open with the presentation ready to run. I will always send my presentation in advance to the organisers so that they can have it ready on their system. Ideally, I’d like to set up before the event starts or at a coffee or lunch break. There is nothing worse than watching a nervous speaker panic with his technology and making errors before he even begins to speak.
I generally pick three people in the room and speak to them. Yes that’s right – just three. Speaking at conferences to thousands of people can seem daunting. However, I only ever speak to three. Someone on the extreme left, the extreme right and someone in the center. After an initial opening, usually a joke or something to engage my audience, I quickly identify 3 pleasant faces and speak to those people for the duration of my presentation. Dress professionally and appropriately for your event. People will judge you from the second you step forward from your laptop to your clothes. Be certain that when you say it gives you great pleasure to be here that your face is sending the same message!
Smile and smile, warmth, comedy, energy will greatly improve your communication skills.
I think it’s an almost certainty that your entire audience can read so do not use PowerPoint presentation which is text heavy. Do not read for an audience. If you must, put a single keyword somewhere on your presentation to remind you what to speak about. Put in the main images, use video audio to engage your audience and allow them to interact with you. If you are asked to speak, remember adrenaline will force you to accelerate and sound like an auctioneer on helium. As in most things in life whether it’s meeting your true love or hitting a tennis ball, timing is crucial.
At some points in your presentation you will need to slow or be completely silent. Use silence and pauses to punctuate the big message that you want to drive home. I often begin writing presentations at the end and ask what will my finish be? What was the big end because in reality many people well hold on to your final paragraph or final message for the longest time. If you rely on technology you can be certain it will let you down. I almost always have two laptops, presentation on my phone or watch as well on the clients system. Murphy’s law clearly states that if something can go wrong it will go wrong but if you prepare for all eventualities you will certainly be a lot calmer and in the event that something goes wrong. Hopefully your audience will not even be aware.
Regardless of how nervous or anxious you feel, it’s really important that you do not transmit this to your audience. Fake it till you make it is an expression often used but it’s really important that you force that smile, control the shake in your hands, walk around the environment, work your audience and convince them that you’re an expert in the content of your presentation. If you follow these steps often enough, I promise you will dramatically change how you speak in public.
A good Carpenter can use all his tools! If you’re using PowerPoint, be sure that you’re very familiar with the newest features and the newest techniques. Invest time in preparing your presentation so that visually it’s brilliant. Be a great storyteller. I personally love to use music in my presentations to accentuate a mood or focus an emotion. The next time you watch a speaker who you find particularly poor, perhaps it might be a good idea to take note of all of his negatives to be sure that you don’t repeat them as you can learn as much from a bad speaker as a good speaker. I’d like to practice mental rehearsal. Before an event, I literally would plan out every detail. What I wear, what equipment I will use, at which points I will raise my voice, which points I will lower my voice and at which points will I pause. You could give an identical script to 10 different speakers and not end up with the same speech. Remember the quality of your presentation will be a reflection of the time you have invested and your own personality.
Be a great storyteller. Regardless of what your presentation is about, the ability to engage your audience and be relatable can make you a powerful speaker. Try not to hold anything in your hands except the remote for the presentation and try to make this even invisible. I will often point to the screen with my empty hand while using the clicker in my other hand. Have you considered using technology like a smartwatch which would prompt you with a vibration when you’ve reached the time allocated to that particular slide?
Evaluation of your guest speaker speech is critical if you are to improve. I will always make an audio recording on my phone when I begin to speak or watch back a video of a presentation. This allows me to take note of phrases or techniques that have worked well and make sure to repeat them. It also allows me to identify flat points in a presentation, mistakes or changes that need to be made. It is not always comfortable looking at yourself speak or listening back but I promise you it’s the best way to make progress. If you want to learn to drive, get a live driving instructor. If you want to get better at public presenting and speaking get a professional to help you. There are a wide variety of tips, techniques and ideas about how you can be a better speaker in my personal mentoring series available on www.endaodoherty.ie.