Whether you’re speaking at a company event, a social function, a sales pitch, an industry conference or a meeting of media, there are some fundamental rules that you can apply so that you capture the “hearts and minds” of your audience.
Here are the 13 Steps to Perfect Public Speaking which we’ve pulled together by distilling the ‘best practices’ cited in the leading public speaking books and courses into easy-to-use steps.
1. Choose the Right Subject. The right subject is what you know. Only speak on those topics and issues with which you are comfortable.
2. Define Success Measures. Define for yourself how you will know that the presentation was indeed a success. For example, common measures include: the number of questions you are asked after the presentation; the types of questions you are asked; the types of invitations you receive to speak at other events or venues; the kind of people who follow up with you; an increased ease with which you can contact presentation attendees; the amount of press coverage you receive, etc.
3. Anticipate, and Plan for, Challenges. Assume that there will be some obstacle to your presentation’s success – and then plan for it. For example, make back up arrangements, assuming that your slides or your microphone won’t work. Also, be sure to plan for a noisy room and bad lighting. Finally, prepare for the most likely points of contention that your audience could raise.
4. Get Comfortable by Rehearsing. Conduct at least one dry-run before your presentation. But, do it with people who are representative of the target audience. Also, give yourself enough time to modify your presentation based on their honest feedback.
5. Speak to Your Audience. Only use language that your audience will understand. And, don’t rely on them to ask you for clarification. Chances are they won’t and that means that you’ll lose getting your messages across. Furthermore, speak to the values and priorities of the audience.
6. Connect with Your Audience. Look into the eyes of your audience. Complete a thought before moving your gaze to another set of eyes or to another part of the room.
7. Focus Your Messages. Have no more than three things you want your audience to remember from your presentation. Say these key points at the beginning of the presentation and again at the end.
8. Tell Stories. Audiences are captivated by stories that pull on their emotions. So, use vivid images and descriptive language so that your audience ‘feels’ as well as thinks about your experiences.
9. Monitor the Audience. Whether it is you – or you in conjunction with a colleague somewhere in the room – watch for how the audience is responding to your presentation. One of the easiest techniques is to pose a question to the audience. This technique can also serve to give you time to catch your breath or get re-oriented if you lose your space.
10. Stay After Your Presentation. Devote time to speaking to people after your presentation. This gives ‘wallflowers’ a chance to ask their questions and for you to connect with those people most interested in your topic.
11. Find Enjoyment. Find something about the presentation that excites you. Hopefully it’s the topic, the audience or the experience itself. But, it may be the opportunity to ‘set the record straight’ or to elicit a strong reaction from an audience. Whatever it is, find some reason that you want to be there – otherwise, the audience will sense your lack of passion.
12. Follow-up. Make sure that you – or your colleagues – follow-up after the presentation to answer any questions and/or pursue possible leads.
13. Don’t Be Perfect. Keep in-mind that audiences want you to succeed. So, they are rooting for you – after all, they’ve come to hear what you have to say. But, audiences don’t identify with absolute perfect presenters. Rather, they identify with ‘human’ – i.e. imperfect but passionate presenters. So, feel comfortable knowing that by not being perfect actually helps you be more of a success.