Whether it be a conference keynote, a boardroom briefing, a team meeting or a sales pitch, many of our jobs and roles in life require that we stand up in front of people and speak. For some, the idea of speaking in front of other people creates great anxiety and fear. However, like anything we do, the more we learn and practice, the easier it gets. Learning to communicate confidently as a public speaker can be assisted by applying some simple keys.
Here are 10 Top Tips for Powerful Public Speaking:
- Don’t tell the audience that you are nervous.
It’s very common to feel anxious in your stomach, maybe even a bit shaky or edgy prior to delivering a presentation. This is just nerves. Everyone gets them. The difference is, some people let their nerves become a distraction, and others learn to manage them. No matter how nervous you may be feeling, resist the urge to announce in your introduction that you’re feeling nervous. As soon as you do that, it makes everyone in the room focus on your insecurities rather than focusing on your content or the message you are wanting to communicate.
- Clarity of content
You need to know what you are wanting to communicate before you get up on the stage. If the content or ideas are a little fuzzy for you, they’ll be a total blur for your audience. Work at getting clarity on your messaging before you get up on the stage, then communicate the content that you understand. Don’t try to overcomplicate it- clarity and simplicity are key.
- Start in the centre of the stage
How you start your presentation really has an impact. Even if you will need to refer to your notes during your presentation, make sure you are confident about your opening lines and move away from hiding behind the lectern. Stand in the centre of the stage, position yourself confidently and then launch your presentation with a strong opening.
- Reduce words on the screen
We’ve all experienced ‘death by PowerPoint’, where presentations are backed with slide after slide of text in dot points. The context of a presentation is for the audience to listen to the speaker, not to struggle to read small sized font on the screen. It is tempting to want to put all your information on the slides, but rather keep that for your notes and simplify your accompanying slides.
- Visual images to bring it to life
Slides can be used effectively as visual aids to help support the words you are speaking. Our brains are wired to absorb, retain and recall visual images more easily than text, so find some clean, clear images that accompany your presentation to help engage audiences with auditory and visual learning styles.
- Laughter removes barriers
Humour is one of the most effective ways to remove barriers between you and the audience, and to help the audience stay engaged. Use humour early on in your presentation, then scattered throughout. It creates a breather for listeners and helps put them in a more positive frame of mind where they are likely to take more in and learn from the presentation. Find out what works best for your personality and sense of humour – it might be a joke, a story, a meme on the screen. Just make sure that it is not offensive to anyone!
- Use more energy
Conferences can be tiring for participants – there is a lot of information for people to try to absorb as they sit in session after session. Use any of the nerves you may be feeling and turn it into enthusiasim to try to engage your audience. On stage you need to use more energy and larger gestures than you do in a normal face to face conversation. Project your voice, walk around the stage, use your body language to communicate life and energy!
- Foster audience interaction
As good as your content may be, you need to create breathers in your presentation for the audience to digest the information. Even 60 second interactions where people can discuss a question or topic with those around them can help people process some of the content they have just been listening to.
- Learn from your audience
Before you present, make sure you know who is in the audience – this will help you pitch the content and examples at the right level. During the presentation, get feedback from any audience discussions or group interactions and listen to what they are saying – this will help you scaffold the remainder of the presentation to add benefit to your listeners rather than just giving them content they may already know.
- The show must go on
There are so many opportunities for something to go wrong when you’re presenting. From something technical failing, like a microphone battery dying or your slides not working, to a physical challenge like the need to cough or even having your high heel caught in a gap in the staging! The best thing you can do is to try to not draw attention to whatever may be going on (remember point 1 – we want the audience to focus on your content, not on you). Try to work out a solution – often breaking for a group discussion can give you a minute to try to fix the problem. Whatever the challenge, the best thing for the audience is that the presentation continues – even though that can be out of your comfort zone as a presenter!
About Claire Madden
Claire Madden is a social researcher, media commentator, keynote presenter, TEDx speaker, business consultant and founder of the strategy and communications agency, Hello Clarity. Claire is in demand nationally and overseas as an expert on communicating how to best attract, engage and retain Generation Z as staff, students and customers. To enquire about having Claire present at your conference or event, please contact us.
Public Speaking Coaching
Claire Madden offers tailored public speaking coaching to equip people in a range of corporate settings to confidently and clearly communicate in public. For coaching enquiries, please contact us.