Start the Presentation with Something Unusual
Starting a presentation can be challenging for most people. My clients ask me, “What’s the best way to start a presentation? Should it be with a joke or a story?” Don’t pressure yourself to be extra funny if you’re not a standup comedian. You don’t have to be overly dramatic either.
All you have to do is figure out one thing a little different from what most speakers start with. Don’t start your presentation with something like, “Good morning; my name is John. Today, I’m going to talk about X, Y, Z, and blah blah.” Say something interesting and valuable to your audience. A story can be a great way of doing it or a question stating something that might get your audience’s attention. Basically, anything other than good morning, I’m happy to be here, etc. Talk about the audience when you start, and they’ll pay attention to your next point.
Make an Eye Contact
Your eyes are your most powerful body language tool. When you are giving a presentation, you need to be looking at people. You don’t want to stare at someone and make them feel uncomfortable, but you do want to be looking at people most of the time. When you’re presenting to a larger audience, you may lock eyes with one person for a few seconds and then go to the next person.
If you’re giving a presentation and you’re ignoring your audience, they’ll also respond by ignoring you because they’ve got something a lot more interesting. If you don’t find them interesting, they’re going to find something interesting on their cell phone. They’re going to check email, texts, or social media. That’s why it’s critical to focus on having excellent eye contact every time you give a presentation.
Influence the Audience
Most of the time, when you give presentations, it’s because you want to influence the audience to take your desired action. For instance, you want a specific budget item approved. You want someone to sign a new contract hiring you. You want an investment.
The question is, how can you influence your audience to take your desired action? It comes down to four particular areas:
Know how to look comfortable, confident, relaxed. There can be a lot of different situations any time you are presenting to someone, but you want to make sure you look comfortable, confident, and relaxed in any situation.
The second goal is knowing how to shape messages that are understandable to your audience. If you’re speaking too quickly or using too many complex phrases, words, or jargon, they’re not going to understand you. You want to make sure that your audience understands you.
Making Messages Memorable
Think of the last five presentations you’ve seen in your office, workplace, or school. Now, think of how many messages you remember from those presenters. Can you name ten, twenty, or thirty messages, or even five? Typically, people would say everyone’s boring in our company, and they don’t remember anything, or they occasionally remember one or two ideas. It simply means that you’ll have to make sure your messages and ideas are memorable.
Influencing the Audience
When you work on the above three areas, only then you can influence the audience to do what you want.
Eliminate Fear, Build Confidence
Fear and confidence are two different concepts, but they’re related when it comes to public speaking. Most people struggle with overcoming the fear of public speaking and being more confident when they speak.
Let’s address fear first. If you have a fear of public speaking, it just means you’re normal. We’re born with that. But you have to ask yourself, why are you afraid? What do you fear? It’s like a lot of things in life. You fear the unknown. You’re a little kid; you fear a dark room because you don’t know if there are monsters under your bed. If you have fear about a presentation you’re about to give, it’s quite often because you don’t know if you’re going to be interesting to the audience. You don’t know if they’re going to understand you or care about you. So, it’s rational to have fear when you don’t know if you have exciting ideas. The solution is to practice your speech on video until you’ve seen yourself.
If you go off and deliver a presentation without seeing yourself giving it, you might actually be boring people to death. The solution is not to just feel better about it or think of something else, but to fix the problem. If you’re fearful about speaking, it means you’re afraid about not giving an interesting presentation. The solution is to improve the presentation and make it interesting and memorable.
Now let’s flip to the other side- confidence. How can you be more confident when it comes to public speaking? It’s related to fear. Many people have given a lot of presentations. They’re not aware of actually being fearful of speaking. Their hands are not shaking, they’re not sweating, but they still don’t feel confident that they’re great. Guess what? Everything I just said about how to conquer your fear of public speaking applies to how to have supreme confidence in your presentation skills.
Practice on video until you love it. When you’ve seen yourself delivering information and ideas, you look at it and think, “Wow, this will really help people and that’s how I want to come across,” confidence will just come out. It will appear on your face, in your voice, your energy. You will be filled with confidence, and the fears will be a distant memory.
To Wrap It Up
If you actually do what I’ve shared in this article, especially recording yourself on video, then you’re soon going to be a good presenter. If you feel good about your last video and you feel that you have a grounding in this process, then you’ve actually done what you had to do. Work on other aspects like crafting your messages and visuals, storytelling, preparing a cheat sheet, and everything shared above, and your next presentation is going to be a hit. Good luck!