Must-Read Speaking Tips

From Forbes Magazine – originally written for entrepreneurs, but in general these are great tips for presenters and trainers!

 

For most of us, public speaking can be incredibly nerve-wracking. What if you mess up? What if no one claps? What if someone asks you a question you don’t know the answer to? What if you throw up on stage? (Seriously, you should at least stop worrying about that one.)

But with the right preparation, public speaking doesn’t have to be such a daunting, fretful experience. The chance to strut your stuff and raise awareness for your brand is actually really exciting, especially if you’re a young company looking to introduce your expertise—and offering—to the world.

Here, we outline five steps to take before you get up on that stage to make sure you most genuinely connect with your audience, get your point across in the time allotted, and (most importantly) don’t pass out.

 

1. Practice, Practice, Practice

The benefits of this old adage are twofold. First, becoming comfortable with the material you’ll be delivering will ease your nerves—after reading your speech to your mom, grandma, and six closest friends, the experience will feel much less intimidating.

Second, you’ll significantly improve your delivery. Audiences want to connect with the people they’re watching speak or present, and if you’re reading from a piece of paper for 20 minutes, they’re not going to have the opportunity to do so. The more you know your stuff, the more you’ll be able to make eye contact, throw in a joke, and ensure you pack in all of your crucial points before the buzzer.

 

2. Know Your Space

If you have the opportunity to do so—like at a conference or cocktail party—check out where you’re going to be speaking. Are you using a microphone? Do you have any AV requirements? The better you understand your surroundings, the more you can concentrate on the public speaking itself. And if you’re incorporating AV aspects into your presentation, back to #1 you go.

 

3. Know Your Audience

I’ve talked at great length about the importance of knowing your audience across all of the various ways you communicate. But this sentiment is arguably most important when it comes to communicating in person. Your number one goal for any public speaking opportunity is to really connect with your audience. Regardless of how well you address the topic at hand, if people don’t get it, it won’t resonate. And if you’re not getting your message across, what’s the point?

Research the event and check-in with the coordinators beforehand so you know who to expect, and then tailor your comments accordingly. For example, think about explaining the current social media landscape to a room full of senior citizens versus a room full college students. Different speech, right? (Answer: Yes.)

Another aspect to consider, thanks to our ever-evolving digital world, is any virtual audience that might be participating in the event. Is your presentation being live streamed? Live tweeted? It’s just as important to understand this community. Ask what platforms will be pushing out the content—like the event’s Facebook page—so you can further amend your speech to address this audience. And, as the technology behind this can get complicated (especially if you’re planning to engage with your digital audience in real-time!), apply tips #1 and #2 solely to this aspect prior to getting on that stage.

 

4. Find the Balance

If you’ve founded a content producing business, and you’re speaking at a Content Producing 101 workshop, it makes a lot of sense for you to talk about your company and your experience in the industry. But many times, the connection between what you do and what you’re speaking about isn’t so straightforward. And in these cases, remember that while you want to use the speaking opportunity to draw attention to your business, you also don’t want to come across as too salesy.

So how do you find the balance? Well, remember that you represent your brand, so if you give a kick-ass speech, people are going to want to know more about you. As long as there’s an easy place for them to find you and to learn about what you do (a.k.a., make sure your company’s name, website, and Twitter handle is in your slides or the event’s program), the connection will be made naturally—no awkward, forced interjections of your brand into your speech required.

That said, it’s also OK to find one or two places to seamlessly (and genuinely) tie together what you do and the topic you’re discussing as you’re crafting your remarks.

Finally, make sure to network at the event. One of the biggest benefits of public speaking is the opportunity to position yourself as an expert, so make yourself available for questions and meet-and-greets both before and after your speech so you can strut your stuff.

 

5. Breathe

Really, don’t forget to breathe. You’ll be great!

 

 

Audience Analysis Worksheet

Go to this site to view the article posted about the audience analysis worksheet assembled by Andrew Dlugan with Six Minutes Speaking and Presentation Skills.  Andrew has a great website filled with plenty of tips on public speaking and presentations.  This worksheet is part of his recent Audience Analysis series.  This series and the worksheet are great reminders that in teaching and presenting we need to always be focused on our audience and their needs.  You should be able to run through this worksheet well in advance of the actual speaking engagement, and the data derived will help you to shape the format and content of your presentation and presentation style.

15 Seconds to a Better Presentation

I was doing a lot of reading last night… Another article I came across was published on Inc.com and was written by Geoffrey James.  The article is all about first impressions and how to maximize that little bit of time (the article cites 15 seconds) that you have to grab an audience’s attention.  The information in this article is great for training programs, business presentations, and even meetings.  I’m certainly going to try these suggestions for my next presentation.

I’ve included the article below.

15 Seconds to a Better Presentation

These four simple rules will help ensure that your audience sits up and pays attention.

It takes an audience about 15 seconds (at most) to decide whether your presentation is worth their attention. Fritter away those fifteen seconds and your audience will either mentally check out or pull out their phones to start texting.

Here’s how to begin a presentation so that your audience really sits up and takes notice.

1. Have somebody else introduce you.

Don’t waste time explaining who you are and why you’re there. Write a short (100 word) bio and a short statement (50 words) of what you’ll be talking about. If you were invited to speak, have whoever invited you read this information to the audience. If you called the meeting yourself, put that information in the invite.

2. Do not tell a “warm-up” joke.

I have no idea how the “warm-up joke” became part of conventional business wisdom. Most of the time, the “joke” consists a weak attempt at situational humor (like “why are these meetings always on Monday?”) that merely communicates that you’re nervous and unsure of yourself. The rest of the time, the “joke” is a long story with an obvious punch line that tries everyone’s patience.

3. Do not begin with “background.”

Many presentations begin with a corporate background that’s intended to build credibility. (Example: “Our company has 100 years of expertise!”) The problem here is that at the start of a presentation nobody cares about your company. You’re asking them to translate your background information into something that’s meaningful to them and their business. Why should they bother?

4. Open with a startling and relevant fact.

To get an audience focused on what you’re going to tell them, you must first break through the “mental noise” that causes their attention to waver. This is best accomplished by a slide showing a fact that is new to the audience and important enough to capture their attention. Build the rest of your presentation to answer the business questions that this initial fact has raised in their minds.

Here are two samples presentations to help explain these points:

BAD:

“Hi, I’m John Doe from Acme and I’ve been working in the widget industry for 20 years. And boy, has it been an exiting time (just kidding!) Acme is the industry leader in widgets with over a million satisfied customers!! I’m here today to talk to you about how we can help you save big money on your purchases of high quality widgets.”

BETTER:

“Yes, one million dollars.” (Pause.) “That’s how much money you’re losing every year because of widget failure. Fortunately, there IS a better way and I’m going to explain how you can easily save that money rather than waste it.”

Needless to say, the slides in the above example are simplistic. The “better” example could probably be made more visually rich, perhaps with an illustration of money going down a drain (along with the $1m).

What’s important here is that you realize why the surprising and relevant first slide is far more likely to capture the audience’s attention than the typical rambling intro.

Please note that the “startling and relevant” fact need not be an attempt to generate fear.  The fact could just as easily be about possible opportunity, the achievement of a long held goal, or something else that inspires. As long as it’s surprising and relevant, the audience will listen.