The following is a guest post from Dave Mac, a business communications trainer and founder of Presentation Blogger. Dave’s blog is dedicated to helping real people deliver effective, confident, and anxiety-free talks, presentations, and workshops in business and social settings.
The screen glowed in the dimly lit room. Barry Green yawned. He was tired but there was no point in going to bed. With the worry of next week’s presentation on his mind sleep was proving elusive. He’d spent the weekend writing out his speech, but memorising it was proving impossible. This can’t be happening! He sighed, flicked on PowerPoint, and resumed building his slides.
Public Speaking More Scary Than Death?
Let me just say this – speaking in public is tough. There is nothing quite as stress-inducing as being asked by your boss to deliver a presentation. But… public speaking can also be awesome. Through public speaking you can build relationships, persuade others, and build your credibility.
- But what if it’s your first time presenting?
- What if you are filled with fear and anxiety?
- What if you just hate speaking in public?
- What if you can’t design slides to save yourself?
Here are 3 key points that are easy to implement to improve your presentations. They will reduce your anxiety, increase confidence, and help you to deliver an engaging talk.
1) Understand Your Audience
To deliver a confident and effective presentation you need to understand your audience. Your audience is the focus of your talk and you should tailor it to them.
Tailor it to them by taking the time to know who they are. When you know your audience it puts you in a strong position to deliver an engaging presentation.
If you are delivering a talk on a new product launch, understanding your audience is vital to persuading them that they should purchase and use your product. Imagine you are presenting about a new fashion accessory your company will bring to market.
- If your audience is made up of customers likely to buy the accessory, your presentation should focus on persuading customers to purchase. Your talk will be framed around the features of the product that make your prospects’ lives better.
- If your audience is made up of retailers, who you hope will stock your product, your presentation will focus on the popularity and profitability of the product. Your talk will be framed around the saleability of your new product; how your product matches well with the other items sold by the retailers.
Before you do any preparation for your talk, understand your audience.
2) Plan for an Outcome
So, your boss just asked you to deliver a presentation at the next weekly meeting. If you’re like most people you’ll jump straight onto PowerPoint and start banging-out slides, complete with a zillion bullet points. This approach locks you in to delivering a boring talk where you spend your time using the slides as a prompting device.
Planning for an outcome helps you to create a tighter more targeted speech. When you are focused on achieving a specific goal it’s easier to cut useless material. You’ll be able to streamline your talk.
Here’s how to plan your presentation with an outcome in mind:
- Understand your audience.
- Fix what outcome you would like. What action do you want the audience to take? For example, use a new computer system, change the way they do processes, or submit a survey.
- Decide what they need to know to help them take the action you want.
- Create a presentation outline that gives just enough information that will push your audience towards the action you want them to take.
3) Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect
To relieve your public speaking anxiety you might be tempted to write your speech out long-hand and try to memorise it. Memorising is a mistake. It’s a mistake because you are trying to prevent the unpreventable. You are human, so mistakes will happen. The key is how you respond to mistakes when they inevitably occur.
The right way to handle mistakes
- Giving a mistake negative attention will derail your presentation. When a mistake is made, you forget something, or you say your points in the wrong order, don’t panic. Panic draws negative attention to the mistake and will not help you continue.
- When you make a mistake try not to draw attention to the error. Think about it this way: unless you mention it, you remain the only person who knows an error was made. Therefore, just correct course in your speech and keep going.
- If it is clear to the audience you missed something in your speech, just make a joke of it and correct where you need to. Then continue.
The right way to practice
So if you shouldn’t memorise, how should you prepare? The most effective preparation technique is to know your topic well. If you know your topic inside out it is much easier to talk. Know your topic well and preparation becomes a simple process of outlining the points you need to talk about which will drive the audience to the outcome you desire.
Following these 3 simple keys will have an immediate impact on the quality of your public speaking.
- Understand your audience
- Plan for an outcome
- Practice doesn’t make perfect
Presentation Blogger is dedicated to helping real people deliver effective, confident, and anxiety-free talks, presentations, and workshops in business and social settings. Learn more here.