Picture yourself perched on a platform, spotlight fixed squarely on you, a couple of hundred faces eyeing down on you like hawks.
Now picture these hawks with cameras. Hawks who aren’t afraid to judge every facet of your body language. Welcome to the serious world of public speaking.
Public speaking is one art form that a majority of people fear the most. The tried “just picture your audience in their underwear” was always the advice given to me as a young grommet taking on public speaking ten years ago.
Here are my no fuss tips for masting this life skill.
Finding The Speaker’s Spark
Needless to say my subject matter for my talks is my passion. My content draws from 25 years of industry experience and I like to engage with my audience. I seek feedback and confirmation by posing rhetorical questions and asking the audience to provide their own two cents by raising their hands if they agree or disagree on something I’ve said.
Nodding heads (not the sleepy ones) and smiles also give me the confidence to know that I’m punching through psychological barriers during a talk. Hence it’s important to always have a question and answer component to your talk if possible.
Bear in mind the size of the audience and access to microphones may also mean you’ll need to repeat the question so the audience can hear both the query and answer.
Death By Powerpoint
I don’t recall who told me this, but it no doubt rings true. Powerpoint can be like watching paint dry in a nursing home run by a robot. Minimal use of Power Point is the real way to engage your audience these days as in the end, it’s all about attention and my goal is to seek their attention, not distract it. And lest we forget, it’s also like watching a car accident in slow-mo when a slide doesn’t work.
The Prop Master
Props are good if you can implement them seamlessly within your talk. Anecdotes are also a great way to engage your audience to picture themselves within the realm of the subject matter.
It must be stressed that humour is essential even if the subject matter is serious, as this will warm your audience and help them relate to you a lot quicker. Be cautious around using filler words or speech mannerisms.
Mine’s “basically” and clearly I don’t mean to say it, and I’m sure neither do you guys with yours. It’s just a default thinking mechanism. Ensure you make ample use of pausing and silence. These are golden rules and you shouldn’t be afraid of either.
We have all heard that talk or lecture that sounded like John Goodman on Stilnox. Monotonous spiels are a big no-no and they allow your audience to nod off instead of being all ears. To alleviate this issue, use modulation in your voice such as pitch, pace and power. This will illuminate key words and keep your audience’s attention for longer periods of time.
Speaker Glen Carlson recommends saying hello to as many of the audience prior so that when you do hit the stage, you find yourself in a friendly room with familiar faces. Ask the organiser or support staff to give you a wave or signal of some sort when you have ten minutes to go so you can begin your descent into the timely conclusion of your talk.
And don’t forget that just because they’re listening to you, that they’re not judging your appearance. Always wear your most confident outfit that reflects your persona. How you look and feel will directly affect your presentation.
Look good, feel great.
Final Pep Talk
These seem obvious the the average gent, but you’d be suprised how many people still do it before a talk.
- Do not drink coffee close to the event as your heart will explode with nerves – but not before you become a jittering mess who can’t string together a comprehendible sentence.
- Do breathe as you’ll need air to stay alive and complete your talk. It also helps you relax your pace and your brain to catchup to your mouth.
- Music can help to calm your nerves and get you in the right frame of mind.
- Practice your key points and don’t have too many notes.
- Your outline is something to refer to if you loose your flow, so don’t be afraid to stop and check if you find yourself waffling or lost.
- Repetition is great for emphasis.
- Practice in a mirror and or video yourself to see what your posture and gestures look like.
- Speaking makes for thirsty work, so drink plenty of water and have access to water through the presentation. Don’t be afraid to stop and drink throughout your presentation.
- Swearing is only cool if your audience is cool with it and it suits the subject.
- Think about the best speakers you’ve ever seen, emulate something that feels authentic for you.
- Move off the podium if you have a lapel or hand held microphone to create a more relaxed conversation type talk.