Death is often quoted as the second greatest fear for people while public speaking has reigned at number one for quite some time. Although I would pick a speech over death, there was probably a time in my life when I would have seriously considered the choice. In college, Communications was my minor, but I never signed-up for Communications 101 because you had to present in front of the class. I thought I was pretty slick for avoiding the class. Little did I realize my leadership career would place me in presentation situations on a regular basis.
Thankfully, I am now fully recovered from my Laliophobia (fear of public speaking). I decided this fear was not going to limit my career. To that end, I attended trainings and performed my own research on presentation skills. Below are seven of the most helpful tips I discovered for becoming a dynamic presenter.
1. Prepare: Know your audience and what you want them to know. Understand the demographics of your audience (i.e. profession, standards of dress, education level). Prepare your presentation to meet their needs. People tend to remember only 3 or 4 points from a presentation. What are the main points you want your audience to walk away with? To help your audience remember those points:
- Tell them what you will tell them;
- Tell them; and
- Then tell that what you told them.
A large part of my preparation actually focuses on eliminating information not in support of my primary points (i.e. fluff).
2. Humor: Make fun of situations, yourself, but never the audience. Jokes often help a presentation, but even one bad joke can hurt a presentation beyond repair. Sometimes the less humor used, the more impact it has on the presentation when it is delivered. When using humor, keep in mind these rules:
- This is a business setting and the jokes must be clean and non-offensive;
- Have some connection between the joke and your topic; and
- The only safe bunt of a joke is the speaker; never alienate the audience with insults.
3. No Apologies: Never start a presentation with an apology. How many times have you heard a presenter begin by saying 'I am sorry I have a cold, or I am nervous? If you have a cold, the sniffles do a fine job of making that apparent. Or, if there are no outward signs, who really needs to know you don't feel well? Many people use such statements as a way of requesting leniency from the audience. Apologies like this announce to the audience, 'the presentation you are about to receive is less than you deserve, but please don't blame me."
4. Attention: Get and keep their attention. Different people have different learning styles. Some learn by simply listening, some need to see it, and some learn best by experiencing it. If appropriate, try to fit all aspects into the presentation. Visual aides are a great way to keep your audience's attention. No matter what your medium (projector, flip chart, power point), it is important to remember a few rules about visual aides:
- Allow for some white space, don't fill the entire paper or slide with details or pictures;
- Use alternating colors for easier reading; and
- Visual aides support the presentation; do not use them as the entire presentation - be prepared to add commentary to the visual aides.
5. Move: Make the most of your movement. I appreciate the value of high energy and enthusiasm. Many of my presentations incorporate both strategies. At times however, too much high-energy and movement can be distracting, actually taking away from your message. Appropriate use of movement is the key. Simple hand gestures may be all you need to make a point. On the other hand, sometimes it may take running around the room. Your movement is most effective when it helps the audience connect to your subject.
6. Voice: Use your voice to make your point. Seems obvious, use your voice when you are speaking. Well, here are some specific tips on HOW to use it:
- Speak up! - Nothing takes away from a great presentation more than having audience members acting like a commercial for Miracle Ear, 'What'd he say!?" Have someone stand in the back of the room and signal if you need to be louder.
- No fillers - similar to foods, the best presentations have no fillers. That is, no 'um's, uh's" to fill the space between when you think of something and when you actually say it. Silence between statements allows your audience to process what you said.
- Switch it up - to emphasize a point, speak louder or even speak softer; the change in volume will get the audience's attention.
7. Respect: Show respect to the audience and they will show it to you. Remember, the audience wants you to do well and the smallest amount of respect will win over even the toughest critics. Similar to one-on-one conversations, showing respect to people can make all the difference in the communication. Here are some ways to demonstrate respect for your audience:
- Eye contact - maintain eye contact with the audience. Slowly move from person to person and occasionally hold the contact for a few seconds.
- Honesty - when you don't know the answer, admit it, offer to find out, and get back to the person.
- Save face - if you must disagree with an audience member, do so in a manner that allows the person to save face.
- Self-correction - if an audience member is not paying attention, encourage self-correction, by walking closer to them as you speak. The 'distracter" will notice your proximity and stop the distraction.
There you have it, seven tips on becoming a dynamic presenter and imagining the audience in their underwear was not among them. Incorporate these tips as best you can, but do not allow them to take away from who you are and what you say. Some of the most successful speakers break several speaking rules. Take these seven tips, mix them with your own unique style, and your presentations are sure to be dynamic!
Kevin Kearns is President of Kearns Advantage, a leadership development company. He holds a Master of Science degree in Organization Development from Central Washington University and is a member of the Coachville Graduate School of Coaching. Visit www.kearnsadvantage.com or call 1.866.687.5388 for more information.