People consistently rank public speaking as their number-one fear. Why? Because we have a tendency to wonder, and sometimes worry about what our audience thinks of us.
Do they think I’m a dork? Do they hate what I’m saying? Are my gestures too small or too big? Do I sound like an expert or a moron? Do my jeans make me look fat? Okay, maybe not the last one. Our fear of being judged is what makes public speaking so tough. The funny thing is, most of the time people aren’t thinking about the speaker anyway. They’re thinking of the content.
But every now and then, you come across someone who forces you to think of them as a speaker. Recently I had the opportunity to listen to someone present on a subject I consider myself to be advanced in. His presentation wasn’t as strong as it could have been. In fact, I spent a lot of time thinking about giving this person a hug.
Now, if you’re not a speaker, you might have spent your time focused on how bad the speaker was. As a speaker, I spent most of my time wanting to help him. With a few tweaks, it could have been a much better presentation. Here are some of my tips for making a presentation the best it can be—whether it’s in front of a crowd of thousands or simply in your next team meeting:
- Talk to me, Goose – (Yes, that’s a favorite line.) One of the biggest mistake speakers make is being over the top. If you’re not Zig Ziglar, don’t try to be. Be you. Some people try to go so big that they end up sounding like bad salespeople. Instead of selling me, talk to me. Have a high-energy conversation that fits the size of your crowd.
- Clip Art rocks! – Make sure your presentation is up-to-date. It doesn’t cost that much to purchase great presentation software nowadays, and there is a whole world of templates being created every day. If yours looks outdated, it will take my focus away from what you’re saying, especially if I know what a good presentation looks like.
- Heeey, what’s in this? – To me, content is the most important thing. If people are going to spend their time in front of me, then I better deliver something that can change their lives. I say it this way: Everything you say on stage, even if it’s a joke, must have a purpose. Otherwise you are wasting my time. Evaluate your entire presentation, and if there’s fluff, cut it!
- Is this a sleepover? – You have to be cognizant of your time! Unfortunately, I am a repeat offender of this. If you have 45 minutes to speak, tailor to presentation to your time. Otherwise you start losing your crowd at 46 minutes. Plus, if you take too long, you have to cram the rest of your info towards the end.
- Practice really does make perfect – You MUST know your material. Your audience will forgive a couple of bobbles, but if you can’t remember what slides are next, it tells me that I wasn’t important enough for you to practice your presentation.
- You can’t make me do that – Crowd interaction is fantastic . But if it’s forced upon the crowd, it’s annoying. It’s okay to ask for something from me as an audience member, but don’t make me respond. If I’m comfortable enough with you and my surroundings, I’ll react.
- Um…uh…ok – How you say your presentation also depends on how distracted I can be. In How To Speak Gooder I share an exercise I came up with years ago to train myself to speak fluidly by teaching my brain to think ahead while I speak.
- Who are you again? – Make sure that you absolutely understand who it is you’re speaking to. What do they do? Where are they from? Who are their clients? And most importantly, do they already know your material?
There is a lot more to being a good or great speaker, but this should help you avoid the common pitfalls.
Question: What areas do you think speakers need to work on?
- How To Speak Gooder (ChrisLoCurto.com)