|First Time Public Speaking? |
12 Strategies That Will Have You Presenting Like a Pro
In today's marketplace anyone, from the CEO to the lab technician, may be called upon to give a presentation. Your audience can range from a small group of potential clients or financiers to an entire Fortune 500 Company. If you have little or no public speaking experience, the moments before you step up to the podium, sit at the head of a conference table or walk across the stage can be terrifying. In fact the weeks, days and hours beforehand can be just as unnerving.
The good news is, that some degree of nervousness is normal and even productive. If not overwhelming, it can help to keep us on our toes and allow us to do our best. So, acknowledge your butterflies and teach them to fly together.
My experience spans over twenty years in the public arena and along with the help of an associate of mine, Marta Siberio, of Marta Siberio Consulting, Inc. we have come up with twelve simple techniques to help you present like a pro.
1. Prepare yourself, mentally, emotionally and physically. Everyone would agree, from Toastmasters to Dale Carnegie, that being prepared should be your first priority. Do all you can to get ready for your big debut. Psych yourself up with some positive talk. Get plenty of rest the night before and eat a protein rich breakfast to ensure your energy level stays high during your presentation. If you're required to talk for longer periods of time with only a few short breaks, bring along some almonds or another high protein food to snack on during the breaks and always keep water by your side.
2. Look Your Best. Choose items of clothing that are professional and make you feel good. Now is not the time to try a new pair of shoes or the hottest trend in fashion. Stay with something you feel comfortable in. If you look good and are comfortable, you feel good and your confidence rises.
3. Know your topic. If you are discussing technical terms, make sure you know them inside and out. I promise, the one bit of information you don't know, will be the one subject of a question asked. If that happens you may lose your credibility with potential clients or colleagues. If making a sales pitch, have a thorough knowledge of the product, services, sales figures and any other information you need to be persuasive. Same rules apply for team or department reports. If you know and understand your facts and figures, you will have more confidence when presenting. If you do by some chance forget something, don't panic. There's always "Let me get back to you on that." Or "Great question, but before I answer, I want to double check my data." Then make sure to follow-up and give the appropriate answer.
4. Become familiar with your surrounding in advance. It 's so important to visit the space you will be working in before hand. If you have the opportunity to view the space a day or two in advance, that's ideal. If that isn't possible, get there as early as you can the day of. You need to know whether you are going to be standing on stage, sitting at a conference table or standing behind a podium in the center of a room. Are you using technology, flipcharts or other visual aids? In addition, Marta Siberio suggests, "Before you set-up and begin, walk around the room. Look from your audience's perspective. Visualize where things should be. As a member of the audience what do you expect to see?" Logistically, make the space work for you and set-up the spotlight where you want it to be.
5. Another confidence builder; work with a partner or two. If you can, have your co-workers help you. Find a couple of people who will be at your presentation. They will be your preview audience and make sure you are on track with your message. Most importantly they can give you feedback to help you deliver a professional presentation. The big advantage to this? If you get stuck during your rendition of monthly production figures, you can look to them. Just knowing that they have heard you before can trigger your recall and help you move ahead with certainty.
6. Find one or two things to share with your audience. Some good questions to ask yourself are: Whom are you presenting to? What do you have in common with them? Maybe a humorous personal story or an industry joke. (Just be careful it's not offensive to anyone). Or try a quote from a famous person that applies to your subject material. All of these will break the ice, and hearing the audience laugh will put you at ease. Try these sites for inspiration: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/used.html or http://www.greatcleanjokes.com/jokes/other-joke-types/funny-speech-openers/
7. Rehearse your speech by yourself. Stand in front of a mirror and recite your presentation out loud, even if you feel silly doing it. I know I did in the beginning. Then I realized that this rehearsal time gave me an opportunity to see which areas I needed to work on. The benefits? You are less likely to make mistakes in the actual presentation or whack yourself in the head with flying arm syndrome. I once gave myself a bloody lip. Yes, I admit my hands like to talk as much as I do. One area I saw I had to work on.
8. Be aware of your body language. If sitting at the head of a conference table, don't slump or cross your arms over your chest. Both actions can make you appear disinterested. Instead place both feet flat on the floor and place both hands in a steeple position, fingertips touching. Don't fidget or tap your fingers on the desk. If you want to look busy, Marta suggests holding your notes in both hands, glancing at them from time to time. But don't send or receive texts on your phone. If you are standing, try an athletic or yoga stance with knees slightly bent and feet-hip-wide-apart. When standing at a podium place both hands on either side of it; this is a way for you to claim your space and appear and feel more confident. Remember don't shift from side to side or foot to foot and don't put both hands in your pocket(one hand is okay). Both moves give the appearance of untrustworthiness.
9. Start your presentation with The Old WIIFT-What's in it for them. When preparing your presentation it's important to think like the audience. What will they get from you? What information do you have for them and most importantly how does it benefit them to listen to you? At the beginning of your presentation, list all of the key components you are going to discuss. For example, "Today I will discuss the top three sales techniques to overcome cost objections, followed by role play and ending with a question and answer session." Or "This afternoon I will be discussing several ways to achieve a higher level of production in each department, followed by a five minute question and answer session."
10. Make eye contact during your presentation. It's important to establish your sincere intentions, and part of that is making eye contact with your audience. If you find looking in someone's eyes (say, your bosses) a bit intimidating, you're not alone. Try these tips. Instead of looking directly into someone's eyes, focus in between them at the base of the forehead, just above the bridge of the nose. Also look out into your audience and find key focal points along the back of the room. Every time you scan the room, nod at each one as you make a point in your speech. It will look to your audience like you are making connections with other listeners. What ever you do, don't stare at any one person for too long.
11. Breath, relax and slow it down. Marta says one of the biggest mistakes novice speakers make is rushing through their material and not breathing. She suggests taking several calming breaths before you begin. In addition, Marta suggests you keep a trigger object that reminds you to slow down. It could be as simple as a Post-it note that says "Slow down" or a talisman that only you know about.
12. Remember to have fun. There is a little actor/actress in all of us. Some of the most successful motivational speakers were once shy children. There is a certain excitement in performing for others. So let out your inner diva or rockstar and have fun with that side of yourself. Enjoy the spotlight.
By using some or all of these tips, your butterflies will line right up for you. One last bit of advice, based on personal experience. Trust yourself to do the best you can.
For more insight about public speaking and presenting, check out these web sites: http://www.toastmasters.org or http://www.dalecarnegie.com