Unless your profession involves working undercover as a foreign spy, there is a good chance that at some point during the 30+ years of your career, you may need to speak to the public. You’re not alone in dreading the thought of giving a presentation to a room full of strangers. We want to help you overcome that fear and master the art of public speaking. Here are a few tips to help:
Memorize talking points and their order, not word for word.
If you try to remember every single word of your speech, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. Even if you accomplish the near-impossible task of word-for-word memorization, the audience will likely take notice.
You will come across far less robotic and more conversational if you memorize talking points instead. List out bullet points of everything you want to cover and the order in which you want to cover them, but make up your own transitions and phrasing on the spot so it sounds natural.
Tell stories whenever applicable.
No one wants to feel like they are back in a university lecture hall. We would much rather be sent back to story time in our elementary school’s library. Capture your audience’s attention with a compelling and personal story that illustrates your point.
For example, Connie, our Chief Imagination Officer, is also president of the Fort Collins Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors. When giving a speech at Habitat gatherings, she shares a personal story of a young girl whose family was just welcomed into their Habitat home. The girl took Connie by the hand and showed off her closet space that would be used as a “bedroom for her dollies” because she wanted them to have a new home too. This precious and moving story exemplifies what Habitat is all about even better than facts and figures.
People pay attention when they are laughing.
Of course, not every situation is appropriate for incorporating humor, so please use your best judgment on this one. However, if there is any room for a little light-hearted joviality, then go for it! When people laugh with you, they feel connected to you, thus making your speech seem more relatable. Scatter little humorous bits throughout the speech to hold your audience’s attention from beginning to end.
Make it visual.
Now we know you are a nice-looking guy or gal, but just in case your audience gets tired of beholding your beauty throughout the speech, we recommend creating an accompanying visual presentation.
Not only do photographs, charts, graphs and other visual representations help the audience understand your points, but they can also serve as a cheat sheet so you know what comes next. Need some help jazzing up your presentation? Try out these resources from Hubspot:
- 20 Great Examples of PowerPoint Presentation Design
- The Free Design Templates You Need to Create Stunning Visual Marketing Content
- How to Create Top-Notch Visual Content in PowerPoint
Eye contact is more important than you think.
Anyone ever told you to just look at the back wall when giving a presentation because “no one will notice?” Guess what – this is a lie and everyone will notice. Looking above your audience’s heads the entire time breaks the bond you worked so hard to establish with that last joke. Instead, make eye contact with various people on each side of the room throughout your speech.
If locking eyes with strangers makes you nervous, try strategically placing friends or colleagues throughout the room so you can pretend you are just having a casual conversation with someone you trust. Still freaked out by the idea of eye contact in general? Just look at people’s foreheads; they won’t be able to tell!
The days of imagining the audience in their underwear are long gone. Public speaking nowadays needs to employ a strategic blend of presentation tactics and audience relation techniques. Best of luck with your next speaking engagement, and remember – stay confident and practice, practice, practice!