Many of us have taken our seat at a conference or special event, looked at the keynote speaker slated for the main stage, and thought, “This is going to be great!” Then, 10 minutes later, completely bored with the presentation, we’re scrolling through Facebook and giggling at baby goat videos.
Business advice: Don’t be that guy.
Many, many people think they are good public speakers. Some will even claim to be great public speakers. The problem is: Most of them are wrong.
Nearly all presenters want to tell the audience about themselves. How they built a fabulous business. Why they climbed Mt. Everest. Their struggle to become a neurosurgeon. Don’t get me wrong, those could be great presentations … if there was a bigger message, a lesson the audience takes away and applies in their lives. My good friend and amazing presentation coach Dave Yewman calls it the “why do I care” factor of public speaking.
For example, several years ago I had the unparalleled opportunity to hear Capt. James Lovell speak. As the mission commander from the Apollo 13 flight, he could have filled the hour with his memories of that near-disastrous space mission and been entertaining as hell. Instead, he artfully wove advice about thinking creatively, working as a team and managing fear into his tale of that famous close call in space. Don’t think for a moment that happened by chance. He undoubtedly invested hours of time into crafting a presentation that was entertaining, inspirational and delivered value to the audience.
While you probably won’t ever have an anecdote as gripping as Lovell’s story, you can improve your public speaking skills, and I have two great resources for you to check out. First, Dave’s website has a simple but effective presentation planning template along with great video tutorials and more. Another favorite website of mine belongs to Rob Biesenbach, author of 11 Deadly Presentation Sins. His blog is full of advice, everything from how to practice your presentation (DO THIS!) to the process of creating a great story for your pitch or presentation.
In the meantime, here are 5 tips to get you started:
- Know your goal: Are you closing a deal, inspiring a change, sharing information? What is your “why do they care” message? What do you have to offer the fine folks listening to you?
- Be dynamic: Beyond the message, be aware of everything from your posture to voice modulation and cadence. Invest a few minutes to watch this TEDTalk from Julian Treasure (start at the 4:16 mark, it’s about 3 min. long).
- Have a plan: That template I talked about earlier? USE IT. Take the time to consider what you want to convey before you ever open PowerPoint. Narrow down your focus to three key points to keep yourself and your presentation on track. Don’t overlook a strong call to action in your close.
- Speaking of PowerPoint, don’t use it: Yes, I said … do not use slides unless it’s absolutely necessary. Using powerful language, great stories, and a commanding presence to convey your message is far more effective that slides jammed with bullet points and ridiculous clip art.
- Practice, practice, practice. Talking through your presentation multiple times serves multiple purposes. It helps you refine the message, ensures you hit the allotted time, helps you uncover awkward sections and fix them, and it makes you look like a star.
Bonus Tip: Set up your cell phone and record yourself practicing. I know, no one likes to watch themselves. But you’ll see where you’re stumbling, and it helps eliminate the “ums” and “ahs,” as well as alerting you to physical bad habits like shoving your hands in your pockets or pacing like a caged tiger. You simply can’t fix what you don’t realize you are doing, and video is the best way to accomplish that. (Use this presentation evaluation checklist for guidance.)
Not sure you can do it alone? One of the services Generate Marketing & Communications offers is presentation coaching. We’ll walk you through planning and delivery of presentations ranging from sales pitches to keynotes. So, if that video of your practice time makes you want to hide under the bed, email firstname.lastname@example.org