In the run-up to Christmas, we’re giving away three special presents to our friends and clients. Each one will help you plan the best 2018 you could possibly wish for!
“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
If you’ve ever been tasked with presenting to a large group of people, you might identify with what Seinfeld has to say on the matter! But being able to speak publicly about your business, and do it well, adds an enormous boost to your prospects.
Here are some pointers on how to make powerful presentations that will leave your audience yearning to do business with you.
Thorough planning is crucial if you want to present a speech that won’t easily be forgotten. While there are some gifted people who can ‘wing it’, most of us need to plan to stand any chance of success. Time spent on planning is certainly worthwhile, however, not least because it will make you more confident and credible.
Here are three factors you need to consider at the planning stage:
1. Clarity of purpose
Start at the end. Ask yourself – what doesn’t my audience know now that they need to know by the end of my presentation? What are the key messages I need to convey?
Try not to include too many different strands in one presentation as this could confuse your audience. Also, don’t make your presentation one long pitch about your products and services.
Having a clear purpose in mind means adding value for your audience, so they feel they have benefited from the time spent and look on you/your company favourably as a result.
Winston Churchill – one of the most celebrated orators of all time – had a very simple approach to presentation structure. Namely: “Tell them what you are going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you have told them.” Of course, your presentation will include lots of other details, but this is how you should frame it to make sure your points really hit home.
3. Visual aids
The best public speakers make only moderate use of presentation software (such as PowerPoint) or simply don’t use it at all. The worst presentations are the opposite – pages and pages of dense text that basically repeat what the speaker is saying.
PowerPoints should complement what you’re saying, not be the focus of the presentation itself. Around 3 or 4 slides per 10 minutes of speaking is deemed about right. Make the visuals interesting without being distracting – each page should have only a small amount of text, with pictures and plenty of spacing to make it stimulating.
You’ve planned the best presentation that’s going to wow your audience. But you’re not going to just show up and deliver it. You need to practise and make sure you pitch it just right.
Here are three steps you should take:
1. Research your audience
The kind of people you’re presenting to, along with their status, will dictate the style in which you deliver your presentation. Knowing something about your audience and what appeals to them will help you pitch right.
To make your presentation as engaging as possible, you might include humour, discussion or an opportunity to ask questions at various points.
Also, consider the context. Are you following on from other speakers who might be addressing similar topics? How do you stand out?
How much practise you do depends on your experience, confidence with your material and natural speaking abilities.
Practise until you’re confident it’s the best you can do. Get a colleague to watch and give you feedback. Do some background reading to make sure you can answer any questions that are fired at you. Your colleague could throw a few curve balls to see how well you respond.
3. Calm your nerves
It’s perfectly normal to be nervous in the run-up to your presentation. In fact, it can be a good thing, especially if you channel your nervous energy into projecting a more powerful presence and enthusiasm for your topic.
Confidence in your material and plenty of practice will go a long way to allaying your fears. Getting plenty of rest, exercise and eating well the day before the presentation will make you more alert. Avoid drinking alcohol to relax you, as this will only make you shaky and less focused.
The day has arrived, and it’s time to step up to the plate and perform. Here’s some advice on how to keep all eyes on you, and not on smartphones or the ceiling.
Before you do anything, however, make sure you’re at ease (under the circumstances). Mindfulness, or simply a moment of relaxation before you go on, helps you get into the right frame of mind to perform well. Also, drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated – public speaking is thirsty work – but make sure you’re prepared not to get caught short!
Here’s some advice to help you work the room:
1. Body language
Your body language is just as important as your voice in public speaking. Use the space on the stage to walk around a bit, rather than be frozen on the spot. Use gestures to emphasise a point, making sure you keep your hands within the ‘power zone’ – from the top of your chest to the bottom of your waste.
Avoid sudden jerks, over-the-top body movements or excessive pacing. Try to keep body language as natural as possible.
2. Eye contact
Scan the room as you speak, looking from left to right. But don’t let your eyes rest on one person too long as this makes everyone else feel excluded and the person you’re focusing on uncomfortable.
Speak at an appropriate pace and make sure you can be heard at the back of the room, if not using a microphone. Don’t gabble through your presentation – a tempting trait if you’re nervous. Relax and enjoy the experience, ensuring you vary your tone and articulate your words properly.
If you’ve found this short guide useful, we have an extra treat for you. For a limited time you can download our 3P’s of Powerful Presentations infographic and save it to refer to all year round!
Want to inspire your people to present in a way that packs a punch?
Many of our trainers are experts in public speaking and offer group or private coaching. We’ll consider current experience and skills, then tailor a course that transforms your people, so that your organisation can take full advantage of the opportunities public speaking brings.
Contact us today to discuss how we can make this happen.