Mastering the Art of Public Speaking [Part 2]

Use Stories to Make Your Ideas Unforgettable

Do you want to know what the single biggest difference between great communicators and the average, boring ones is? It’s not about intelligence, looks, charisma, or having a sense of humor, although humor does help. The difference is great communicators use stories to illustrate all their key points. That’s because stories allow your audience to visualize what you’re saying, which will trigger their memory process and create a lasting impression on them.

Your story doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Get a clean sheet of paper, brainstorm your top five ideas, and come up with a little story for each. A simple story with a character, a problem, a setting, and a little dialogue would do. Most importantly, make sure that the story conveys your point and creates interest, don’t let it backfire.

Remember that it’s not just about opening your speech with a funny story to loosen people up. It’s critical to the whole communication process. You need an actual and relevant story. Not some generic motivational starfish story, but a real story about a real problem, a real conversation you had with a real person, and how the problem was resolved.

PowerPoint Presentation

Though PowerPoint presentations and visuals aid your presentation or speech, most of the time, they’re dull. They’re excuses to put people to sleep or encourage them to check their Facebook feed because it’s so darn boring.

For starters, if you’re thinking of giving a PowerPoint presentation, remember that you’re not giving a PowerPoint presentation, but presenting your ideas and using the presentation to help them come alive for your audience. The PowerPoint slides are just an extra. The second you tell yourself, “I’m giving a PowerPoint presentation,” it flips a switch, and they become boring, robotic, and incompetent speakers. Don’t let that happen. My advice to you is, don’t create the first slide until you’ve identified what you want your audience to do, what are your five key ideas messages, and what’s the story for each message point. Do this, and then think about having slides to back it up. Your slides should be memorable and easily understandable.

Here are a few rules you need to follow when making a PowerPoint presentation:

One idea per slide

 If you want to successfully use PowerPoint, then make sure you’re describing one idea per slide. When you see three bullet points or ten bullet points, it just doesn’t work. The PowerPoint slides are not for your notes.

Use images

Putting text on slides that you are projecting may not help your audience remember your messages. If you want to be effective, add one image per slide without having any text on it. If you want to have lots of text, email that to people in advance or give it as a handout, but don’t project it during your presentation.

Make people look at you

When you’re speaking, let people look at you and don’t have a slide up. The one solution to this is to hit the letter B on your keyboard as it will black out the screen. If you want people to look at the slide, then stay quiet and let them look at it.

Build an Ethical Cheat Sheet

A cheat sheet is a simple but effective tool to remember your messages. Having notes on a single sheet of paper will make you feel more comfortable and relaxed when you are speaking and will create a better experience for your audience.

I recommend you make it in a font large enough to read, so you don’t have to fumble around in the middle of a presentation, or put on your glasses to read the notes. Moreover, bold it and don’t use different indentation levels because it’s hard to read when you are speaking. Rather, have everything with left indentation as it’s easier to look at it and quickly identify where you were.

If you find yourself needing more than a single sheet of paper, the problem is not that you need another sheet of paper. The problem is you haven’t narrowed your messages down enough.

Moreover, don’t hold the notes in your hands when you’re standing and speaking; rather, have them down on a table or a chair. This way, you can continue to move your hands and walk around. The audience won’t even know you’re using notes, and they will perceive you as smarter, more competent, intelligent, and capable.

Practice on Video

Your audience wants your best, and you probably won’t be able to give your best unless you practice it on video. If you’re not willing to practice, you don’t know if you’re doing good or not, and that’s what causes you to get nervous or uncomfortable. The number one way to get over it and be more confident is to practice speaking on video until you love it.

Record a video, review it, make notes of what you don’t like, work on your weaknesses, rerecord, and repeat until you are completely satisfied. Try to improve just one area at a time. For instance, if you notice that your head is frozen and stiff the whole time, then rerecord a video while explicitly focusing on moving your head.

Get Feedback

When you’re confident that your video is good enough, send it to two or three people who have a similar mindset to your intended audience, and get their feedback. Make sure you ask for specific feedback on particular areas; don’t just ask them if they liked it, because they will probably say it was great. Generally, positive feedback is worthless.

 Ask them what they remember from the video and how they would summarize it to someone who hasn’t heard your speech. If they tell you one or more messages they remembered from your videos, then you’ve done a great job. However, if they can’t remember anything, you need to work on your messages and stories again.  

To Wrap it Up

This article describes everything you need to know to be a great public speaker or a great presenter. Let’s recap. You’ve identified what you want your audience to do. You brainstormed messages that might motivate them to do that. You’ve narrowed it down to your top five. You’ve come up with a story for each one. You’ve come up with a slide or an image to support each message. You have a single sheet of notes to help remember your messages. You’ve practiced your speech on video numerous times until you liked it. You’ve shown it to other colleagues, and you’ve improved and refined it even more until your colleagues are not just liking you as a speaker but remembering the key messages.

If you’ve done all this, you’re now ready to give a brilliant presentation or speech. If you haven’t, do it now, and you’ll be a great speaker and a fantastic presenter for the rest of your life. Good luck!

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