“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” – Jerry Seinfeld, Comedian
Public speaking and giving presentations are tough as it is between the fears of messing up and forgetting what you meant to say to just wanting to make sure you give a well-presented speech. It’s important that you not only prepare yourself with the content of your speech, but that you also know how to effectively give a presentation so that your message is not only heard by the audience, but that the audience actually listens. Two very different things.
Here’s just a handful of simple tips for giving a successful presentation:
Speak TO your audience, not AT them. Nobody wants to feel like they’re being talked down to or lectured. Engage your audience through bringing yourself to their “level”, engaging them and responding to their reactions and their questions. The more you can engage your audience, the better. People will begin to feel as though you’re someone they can relate to or whom they want to listen to, rather than someone they may be listening to as a part of a conference or work-related function or whatever the occasion may be for your speech.
Use props and visuals. There’s much debate about whether PowerPoint presentations and charts are overused in presentations, but they’re a great way to maintain the attention of your audience. It helps with note-taking and it helps keep people engaged in the presentation, especially if you can create visuals that can bring some humor or something for the audience to visualize to get your message across, such as a photograph, diagram or graph.
Stay on time. Usually you’re given a specific timeframe to speak. This means that they wanted you to cover whatever topic you’ve been asked to speak on within the time allotted, so make sure that you stay on time with the schedule. Nobody wants to look out into the audience and see people looking at their watches wondering when your presentation is over with and you certainly don’t want the facilitators to cut off your presentation before you close and conclude your program. People may not be given a chance for questions and you may not have enough time to tie in your entire topic before you end. Have a clock visible and rehearse your speech a few times before presenting to make sure that you’re capable of finishing on time.
Know your audience. It wouldn’t make sense to go into your presentation and start referencing a lot of vocabulary that may not apply or be known amongst your audience, so make sure that you know who your audience is before presenting. If you have a younger audience, you may be able to reference certain topics or points of conversation that you may not otherwise with an older audience. Knowing your audience is a great way to find ways to connect with your audience and make yourself relatable to them.
Be (appropriately) funny! Hand-in-hand with knowing your audience, it’s perfectly acceptable and even encouraged to bring in humor when appropriate. If you know your audience, you may be able to tailor some jokes or bits of humor that may lighten the mood. Everyone likes to laugh and if you can make your presentation stand out among the others as entertaining and informative, instead of just information-packed, you will find your presentation to stand out among the rest—including your message!
The next training on High-Impact Presentations will be taking place on Tuesday, August 9, 2011 in Indianapolis. For more information and to register, click here.
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