Even seasoned public speakers pick up bad habits the longer they are presenting and the more experienced you are, the more tempting it can be to take short cuts in your preparation or delivery. Taking the time to look objectively at your style and approach is very important to keep your presentations fresh; the alternative is that you get tired of what you’re delivering and then your audience does too. The three areas you should look at polishing, whether a presenting pro or not, are your; delivery, structure and content.
The delivery encapsulates all your soft skills but it’s more than just looking at body-language, it’s a range of areas which all help to draw-in the audience. Your posture can help to show coolness, even under pressure. Making eye contact with each person or at least with all sections of larger groups will help to build a relationship with individuals and be seen as inclusive. An appropriate pace won’t just mean you are speaking slowly enough for people to follow the content; it will also give you the opportunity to use pauses to add emphasis to the important parts of your speech. The variations in your tone and pitch help with this too, but they also act to keep people’s interest levels up – using a monotone voice is the best way of sending your listeners to sleep. Even a smile will help the room warm to you and your story.
Structure is an area that many people overlook but without having a clear thread for the audience to follow it’s likely they will get confused and lose interest. Using signposts e.g. explaining what you are going to say, and highlighting the particularly important areas, will help people to follow the journey you want to take them on. Having an impactful introduction which grabs the audience’s interest from the start is another factor that is worth honing. By ending the presentation with a really punchy conclusion or call to action you can use the final words to drill home what you came to communicate, making sure that you get remembered.
Your content is the main area of your preparation but it does need the right delivery and structure to make sure the content gets across effectively. Your main message has to be clear, concise and repeated more than once. However, people often won’t just buy-in to your message without hearing why – use evidence (examples, statistics, analogies and illustrations) to back up what you are saying. Be careful not to overload the presentation with data or jargon though and make sure the audience is as comfortable with this language as you are. Finally put your own personality into the content, use humour (where appropriate) and even some personal experiences – this will make the difference between a bland or dry presentation and a memorable one.
Ultimately your goal with all of the above is to both communicate and connect with the audience – the best speakers do this in a variety of ways. Firstly they make sure they do their research and use messages and examples that resonate with the people they are talking to. Secondly they will use open postures, move around different parts of the stage and make eye contact with as many people as they can. Thirdly they have a conclusion that stays with people; if individuals buy-in to your message, or take up your call to action, you will have truly connected with them.
Written by Will Edwards – www.bluewoodtraining.co.uk – March 2014