If you have decided to start your own business, then chances are you are going to need to learn how to give a great presentation. Whether you are trying to raise money or build brand awareness at industry conferences, you will need to master the skill of speaking.
Speaking in public is not like other forms of communication. Often, speakers are unaware of, or just don’t give thought to the ways in which it is different. They just know that it can be nerve-wracking and feel there is a risk of making a fool of themselves. Yet it doesn’t need to be so painful. To be a successful speaker requires a great deal of preparation and outline techniques which will lift your presentations to another level.
Practicing Your Technique
Being aware of what makes public speaking different from the other ways in which we communicate will help you understand what you need to do in order to give a great presentation. Speaking to large groups of people on formal occasions presents a set of unique problems; the situation must be dealt with differently.
Public speaking differs from a conversation. It’s harder to command your audience’s attention because, unlike in a chat, the people who are listening to you do not expect to have to contribute; they may switch off – because they can. Secondly, in a chat with two or three people, you are rarely expected to be the expert or come out with a pearl of wisdom; in a speaking engagement, you are expected to be worth listening to – that’s why you have been given the privilege of the stage.
“Presenting is not the same as handing out a document” says Dan Smith of Keynote Speaker. “It’s harder to command your audience’s attention than if you had given them a something to read because, unlike reading a document or a book, the people listening to you cannot go back and check something they didn’t hear properly or understand. If they don’t get it, you will lose them.”
So you really are a bit up against it. They can just sit there in judgment of you: they can ignore you, they can secretly laugh at you, they can fail to pay you any attention whatsoever. And you may not even know it! Follow these simple guidelines and you won’t go far wrong.
Someone once said it’s not what you say but the way that you say it that counts. It’s not completely true, but there’s no doubt in my mind that you should give at least as much thought to the how you deliver your speech as the what
The Principles of Presenting
“Approach your speaking as a challenge” says speaking coach Chris Adams of the Coaching Institute. “Keep them focused on you from start to finish. Avoid being completely predictable in your movement. Don’t stay in the same place the whole time, especially if this is stuck behind a table or a lectern.”
A clear decisive movement, in almost any direction, will make your audience sit up and take notice. Try to do it at a significant point in your delivery. It will look as though you are moved (literally) by your own words. But don’t keep repeating the same movement like pacing backwards and forwards this becomes as tedious as standing still.
Look at them! Make eye contact as much as possible and scan the room. Don’t just look at the front or the back, the right or the left. Systematically scan the room. If your audience senses you are making a real effort to communicate with them as individuals, they are much more likely to take you seriously.
They will also regard you respectfully if you are passionate about your speech’s content and effect, so always speak as if you are deeply serious about your message. Make it seem that it means a lot to you. If it doesn’t mean much to you, why should they listen? Never, for example, say something like, “I knew I had to do a presentation today so I looked on the internet for some for some interesting facts.” It undermines you. You the passionate expert.
Another great way to keep people’s attention is to have a story at the heart of your speech. People love listening to anecdotes, especially well constructed ones. And it gives you something to hang everything else around.
How to Structure a Speech
Following a clearly defined route is a great way of laying down a pathway for yourself and it helps to keep your audience on board because they can see where you are going.
Try this pattern:
- Opening Hook – something to make them sit up and take notice. Think about using the What’s Special About Today technique: telling them that something is unique is a great way to start. Or you could use a rhetorical question, an amazing fact, a story,a quotation.
- Overview – introduce yourself, state your credentials, and summarise what you are going to tell them.
- Three Main Points – don’t try to tell them too much, it’s hard to digest a presentation.
- Summary – tell them what you have told them.
- Closing – the dramatic counterpart of the Opening Hook. Maybe refer back to the Opening in a bracketing technique, finish with a quotation, an original quote or surprising statistic.
How to Use Your Voice in Public Speaking
Practise your speech beforehand. As you do so, experiment with your voice. It’s just as important as movement in giving your words a little added colour and therefore it helps to hold your listeners.
You can get a lot more meaning into your words if you vary the four P’s:
- Pitch – a higher pitch suggests excitement, lower pitch indicates seriousness
- Pace – similar dynamics work here with faster delivery showing drama, a slower speed conveys reflection, deeper thought
- Pause – use dramatic pauses before or after a significant phrase
- Power – vary your delivery by changing how loudly you speak
You want to come across as natural and sincere. Ironically, perhaps, this is often best achieved through careful rehearsal. Spend plenty of time before the event going over it – improve the content, improve the style.The alternative to not rehearsing is to be ill prepared which is frankly insulting to your audience. Treat the presentation as a performance; create a well honed piece and perform it several times.
Then go out knock them out!