Public speaking…the key things to know

If you are making any form of presentation you will benefit from these quick tips.

Get the content and flow right:

First, make the presentation flow correctly – as most presentations are trying to convince someone of something, I tend to use the old A-I-D-A (a 1950s acronym for Attention/Interest/Desire/Action) system to build to a conclusion.

Kick off with an attention getting statement to show the audience they should listen.

A = Get attention right from the start of the presentation – do it with enthusiasm and excitement!

I = Build on this great start with why you and your topic are worth hearing about.

D = Build in some exciting data points that build on that foundation BUT only tease them, don’t tell all yet…use that to get some action.

A = Ask for some action, in other words close the pitch with…for e.g. in an investor pitch you could say…”to learn more how we can make money together come and speak to me after this pitch…”. You are trying to make them want to do something that moves towards you outcome.

If you are doing a factual presentation that needs agreement in the room then close all the data with a strong argument to go with your idea or along with your outcome.

Things you should remember for any presentation are:

B = Breathe, yes, breathe. Calm your nerves by breathing slowly and forcing the rate down. Take a few deep breaths before getting up to pitch.

S = Stance. Again, its important to stand correctly. Most people, including me when I started, try leaning on things or folding their arms or moving from leg to leg. Don’t do it. Practise keeping you lower body face on to the audience and static, using your upper body to gesticulate

E = Eyes. Once you are standing in front of everyone, take a cool, slow scan of the room and try to look at the audience ‘row by row’. This shows confidence and it gives you a second to relax and get ready.

SM = Now smile at the audience and try to empathize with them. Again this helps you relax and smiling will actually improve your state.

H = Hug. Or better group hug, this means open your arms and greet the audience. You don’t fold them shut like a hug but just hold them open as if presenting to 1000 people for a second.

E = Energy, now launch into your pitch with your welcome statement with energy, enthusiasm and excitement. Your passion must come across right away to help engage the audience and get their ATTENTION!

Things to also make the presentation go smoother:

If you are in front an audience, take a glass of water up with you, always. This is a great way to think about answers to questions or to give you a ‘breather’ between slides as well as soothe that dry mouth syndrome.

Try some facial exercises to beat the ‘lock jaw’ that afflicts many of us – the simplest is the say AEIOU while stretching the facial muscles as much as possible.

So what about the content?

Well it’s simple really, you are SELLING in most cases, even if its talking to peers, you are trying to get some action or convey useful data in most cases…

So remember this – this presentation is about selling YOU, you are the stand up comedian for a few minutes – you need to entertain, excite and persuade.

Think about this for a minute – most of the books you have read or the way you may have been taught to present is around style and content not performance art!

BUT this is the key skill – you have just a few minutes to get people from BORED to I MUST speak to this person to learn more – without any help from PowerPoint.

It’s all about you and them.

Your slides should be simple and NOT tell the audience everything they need to know, they are a “prop” for the main subject…YOU! Use them to get across very core facts with the minimum of data or bullets. Use images and ideas as the basis for the “words” you will speak, the slides should not do the work for you, that’s up to you.

More about slides here:

Getting yourself in peak state:

So 50% of your preparation needs to be about mentally preparing yourself to relax, breathe, speak clearly, look people in the eyes, use your hands and face with passion (like an Italian) to communicate effectively.

Also, you can use techniques to get you ‘charged up’ (or in state) before you go up on stage. You can do this in your head with positive affirmations (I AM a great presenter and I have a fantastic opportunity for my audience – if you believe it then it will come across when you speak) or combine it with moving your body. I like to find a quiet place and rev myself up with a ‘yes, yes, I am a presentation monster’ while punching the air a bit but this may not be your style! Anything that gets your body moving as well as your mind will help.

Put yourself in their shoes, what would get you to sit up in your chair, hanging on every word?

The other 50% is getting the key data to them in a fast but effective fashion.

I hope I don’t need to remind you to practise and time the pitch to match the needs of your event/venue.

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