Here are the top 5 strategies you can use to make sure every presentation is a showstopper.
1. Realize 90% of Nervousness Doesn’t Even Show
The audience usually can’t see the telltale symptoms of nervousness. The butterflies, the shaky hands or the sweaty palms. The key is for you to not focus on them either. You need to focus on the audience. When you do this two things will happen: 1) they will like you more, and 2) much of the nervousness that you feel will go away.
Many times when I have given a presentation people have spoken to me afterwards about how relaxed and confident I was. (Believe me, I wasn’t.)
2. Don’t Avoid Eye-Contact.
When we are nervous, it is a natural reaction to want to hide. When you are standing in front of a group of people where do you hide? You can’t. So you will tend to look down or look away from your audience. If we can’t see them they can’t see us, right? Wrong.
The other trick people try is to look over the tops of their heads. The idea here is that by looking a peoples foreheads, they will think you are looking at them. Wrong again.
You need to look directly into people’s eyes with kindness. Create a rapport with the audience through your visual contact. If anyone smiles when you look at him or her, smile back. This will make you, and the audience, feel more at ease and will make your presentation more genuine.
Identify three people in the audience whom you want to speak to: One on your left, one in front of you and one on your right. Deliver your speech to these three people. Look at each one for about 4-5 seconds and “switch target” to the next person. Don’t maintain eye contact for too long. This will create an uncomfortable situation. You don’t want to creep people out.
If you can meet some of your audience ahead of time, as they come into the room, and can chat with them a bit, it will relax you and you can look for them when you speak.
By using this technique, it will give the impression to the entire audience that you are making eye contact, because you are sweeping the room with your glances.
3. Don’t Apologize.
Never start a presentation with an apology. By starting a presentation with an apology for your nervousness or for having a cold, you are drawing attention to something the audience may not have noticed. You are also announcing to the audience, “the presentation you are about to receive is less than you deserve, but please don’t blame me.”
I have seen too many people do this and it definitely impacts how you are received. No matter whether or not you are completely prepared, have forgotten something or whatever – keep it to yourself. You are the only one who knows, or who needs to know.
4. Avoid A Rushing/Monotone Voice.
A fast paced monotone speech is a sure-fire way to make your audience feel unimportant. It will also cause them to lose focus and become bored. How many lectures did you sit through in school listening to a monotone professor drone on about whatever subject he was teaching? How much of those lectures did you actually remember?
When I was completing my degree I listened to many boring, monotone lectures as the professors droned on and on. You don’t want to subject your audience to this same torture and you want them to remember what you talked about.
You can easily avoid monotone messages. Before saying a word think about the value of your message. Think about the aspects that create passionate feelings. Think about speaking clearly with compassion. Smile. Tell yourself a joke. Take a huge confidence breath.
Use eye-contact, positively say “you,” and flow with the message. If you do, you’ll hear, “I felt like you were speaking specifically to me.” That’s one of the best compliments you can get. And it proves that you’re speaking TO not AT the audience.
5. Limit your talk to a few key points.
Have you ever attended a lecture which was supposed to last 15 – 20 minutes and 30 minutes later the person is still talking. Or gone to a public debate where each contestant was to have 5 minutes and one person is still speaking after 10 minutes?
Narrow down your topic to either one key point for a short talk, or three key points for a longer talk (a talk longer than 30-minutes). Ask yourself, “If my audience only remembered one thing from my talk, what would be the most important thing for them to remember?” The more points your presentation has, the less focus the audience will have on each individual point. Once you have your key points, then create your PowerPoint slides, if you are using them.
If you remember these five key points, you will be sure to knock-em dead.
To your speaking success
P.S. for more tips on public speaking, you can sign up here for my free ezine