Good show! How to improve your public speaking and presentation skills.
It’s a new year and the start of a brand new decade. What better time to redirect some focus and energy inwards on improving your personal and professional presentation skills? Despite a cultural trend toward the texted, tweeted or instagrammed message, being able to communicate with individuals and groups is still a business and social mainstay. Learn the most important steps to becoming a powerful, confident and effective public speaker, wherever and to whomever you engage.
Think before you speak.
There are a number of housekeeping elements to consider before you address an audience, be it your boss, a room full of peers, or potential customers and associates. What is your message and goal? To be your most effective self, it’s essential to be clear of your intent. How do you want your audience to respond? Is there an interactive element or immediate feedback involved? When you know your desired outcome (a job offer, a roomful of raised hands with questions, or a rousing round of applause) you can gear your address to stay in-line with that messaging.
The most attractive attribute.
Contrary to modern marketing, you don’t have to look, act, or be anything but yourself when presenting to others. There’s no secret fashion makeover mantra or appearance enhancer you need to create that first great impression. YOU, being fully present, authentically interested in your subject matter and full of conviction is enough.
Of course, your appearance should reflect that you care about your impression: clothing should suit the occasion, be clean and fit well. Steer clear of tight-fitting outfits/shoes and take steps if you get nervous and are prone to show it (think strong anti-perspirant). And don’t forget the power of color in your wardrobe (and in your presentation!)
Speak with assurance, listen with empathy.
Just like your appearance, some things are a matter of how you carry yourself. Speak like you stand: tall, straight and projecting the assurance that you belong there. Confidence comes through in your body language, and genuine warmth and enthusiasm can put your audience at ease. Being an effective speaker also requires you to be an active listener. Resist tuning out and merely thinking of your audience as the receiver of your message; listen patiently and with empathy.
Be prepared for your audience by doing some research. Learn to read their body language: laughter, smiles, head nods or other positive feedback indicate you’re connecting. If your audience is silent, look deeper. Excess movement, shuffling papers, etc. indicates people are disengaging. When that happens, get closer to them, ask someone a question or pick up the pace of your talk.
How to structure your material.
Okay, so you look the part, feel confident and are ready to actively engage your audience. Now’s the time to prepare and organize your content. This includes how to go about an opener, what you need to know about presentation materials, and the most important rule of all.
Did we get your attention? Good! That’s because a strong first statement or attention-grabber can win your audience over immediately and hook them in. A solid statistic, a humorous anecdote, personal story or an expert quote gets ‘em every time.
- Know your material! Be able to speak to your topic fluently without constantly having to refer to reading materials and note:
- Cards are a good go-to prompt or slides to guide your flow. Slides should be easy to read as an aid – not a word-for-word script.
- Presentation collateral is a key component to a winning address or to support your position in a one-on-one with the boss. Slide templates, photos and other graphic assets are available to download online, or you can use free Xerox® templates.
- With the Xerox® ConnectKey® app for XMPie you can have instant access to over 50 classic templates with just one touch on your ConnectKey enabled printer.
- Color prints are also proven to be more effective with an audience, increasing attention span and retention of content.
- Double check your equipment and materials: have enough handouts if applicable; carry a backup PowerPoint; and make sure props are working. If you are making a major presentation, do a once over of your laptop, cables, mic, headphones, video adapter and sound equipment. If possible, visit the location to be comfortable with the layout and know where electrical access is; carry extra batteries plus bottled water.
- Remember the golden rule of speaking: Keep it simple and remain focused on your message. From one-on-ones with your boss to large-scale interactive presentations, your message should be clear, concise and full of conviction. And don’t forget the value of practice and preparation.
Step right up.
Your content, audience and goals may change from presentation to presentation but the skills and materials you need to knock it out of the park each time will not. Follow these tips and you’ll not only hit a homer every time, you’ll look forward to your next at bat.
Visit our small business tips for other best practices on how to excel in your work environment – home, office or anywhere in between.