Using a few public speaking tips can help you make the perfect presentation
On First Take’s presentation training courses we often quote one particular statistic. Dr. Michael Telch of the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin has been studying the anxieties of Americans since 1982. In his research there’s been a phobia that time and again has come up as the thing more people are scared of than anything else, ranking even above the fear of death. It’s Glossophobia, or to give its more common description: the fear of public speaking. A whopping 15% of Americans have severe reactions to speaking in public and report going to such lengths as resigning from a job or dropping out of a university course to avoid making a speech or presentation.
For the remaining 85% of us public speaking is hardly a pleasure. Even the most experienced speakers get nervous before a presentation. So why do we submit ourselves to this torture? Because we all know public speaking is one of the most effective methods to market yourself, your brand or your organisation. Those who are willing to take the plunge and speak in public are the ones who stand out from the crowd.
It doesn’t matter if you are about to talk to 5 or 500 people, if you know the basic techniques, you’ll be on your way to banishing your Glossophobia and making a successful presentation.
1. Understand Your Audience
Knowing your audience meaning researching for information about your audience. Your goal is to deliver your message according to your audience’s interests and needs. Information, such as gender, age and experiences helps you understand the type of audience you will have. Statistically, the majority of presentations fail because the presenter neglected to find out anything about their audience. Although the event you’re speaking at will give you some insight into the audience there’s no substitute for arriving early at the venue, greeting your audience and creating a conversation. Any personal connections you make and subsequently refer to in your presentation will really resonate with the whole audience.
2. Avoid Memorizing
Do not write your presentation word for word because you’ll be tempted to read it. Only memorize the opening and closing part of your presentation or speech. Write down your key messages in bullet points. Making eye-contact with your audience makes a positive and strong impression. So avoid glancing at your notes when making your key points.
3. Grab Attention from the very start of your Presentation
Get your audience attention immediately by:
- Asking a question
- Telling a Story
- Telling a Joke
- Showing videos/movies
Build your credibility and give your audience a reason to listen to what you are about to say. (If you want to read more about grabbing and keeping your audience’s attention read our previous blog post on the subject).
4. Make it Memorable
One of the most famous papers in the history of psychology is Dr George Miller’s The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information. The so-called Miller’s law states that the human brain struggles to hold more than seven pieces of information in the short term memory. To create a successful presentation, make sure you incorporate this rule. Be sure to give emphasis on your key points. Ideally limit those key points to three and try and repeat them several times during the presentation.
5. Have A Strong Closing
The audience will most likely to remember the last thing they hear. So it’s important to end the presentation with a strong remark. A good method is to employ a ‘call to action’ as it’s often a stirring way to finish. An example of someone who mastered the call to action was General Charles de Gaulle, the French general during the Second World War and latterly their iconic President. Although the Nazis had occupied France, De Gaulle’s speeches delivered from London and broadcast to the French people were credited as helping to keep the French resistance alive. He finished one of his broadcasts on 22nd June,1940 with the following powerful words: “I call upon all French servicemen of the land, sea, and air forces; I call upon French engineers and skilled armaments workers who are on British soil, or have the means of getting here, to come and join me. I call upon the leaders, together with all soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the French land, sea, and air forces, wherever they may now be, to get in touch with me. I call upon all Frenchmen who want to remain free to listen to my voice and follow me. Long live free France in honour and independence!” Whilst you might not be in such a pressing situation as General De Gaulle, challenging your audience to aspire to greater things can inspire their confidence in you.