Every one of us has the potential to be a great speaker. Once you know the strategies, all you need is practice and to believe in your abilities. Let’s jump right into 7 strategies that will transform your presentations.
1. Engaging From the Start
Imagine sitting down to watch a movie, TV show or live theater performance and there’s no “hook”…nothing to grab your attention or entice you to keep watching. This happens in presentations a lot. You need to start with a great opener if you want people to be engaged and then remain to hear your message. For some cool ideas for starting your presentation with a “bang”, check out this video.
2. Handling Nerves
Imagine listening to a presenter you can’t connect with. There’s something about her that’s just not “right”. You saw her talking with someone else when you entered the room and she seemed very personable but when she started to present to the larger crowd she just wasn’t the same. This happens frequently, especially when a presenter is nervous or unsure. Check out this video to get some ideas about how to deal with pesky nerves.
3. Verbal Fillers
Do you know how often you say “um” or “uh”? Or maybe you’ve experienced someone who does and you understand how annoying it can be to listen to? Many times with prolific “um-ers”, the audience will focus on the pattern and start counting how many times the speaker says “um” or “you-know” or any number of other verbal filler words and phrases. If the audience is counting the verbal fillers, they are not listening to the speaker’s message. Humans are wired to identify and focus on discernible patterns like frequently used words, verbal fillers, and quirky behaviors and gestures.
4. Effective Q&A
The question and answer section of a presentation logically comes at the end of the presentation. That’s a great strategy EXCEPT when the Q&A session is the very LAST thing that happens in the presentation. A better strategy is to save the last minute or two after the Q&A session for you to have the final word, to remind the audience of your main points, and to re-direct any controversial issues that emerged during the Q&A.
5. Be an Educator, Not Simply a Lecturer
If you really want your audience to “learn” from your presentation then treat them like learners and help them to embrace the concepts you share. Think back to that high school or college “lecture” class…the Psych 100 or History 100 class that was filled with 500-1,000 people in a massive lecture hall. The graduate teaching assistant (GTA) would enter the room, proceed to the lectern, turn on the video equipment and run through the 1.5 hours of slides filled with data that would be on the test on Friday. Everyone in the audience would feverishly take notes and 30 minutes after class would remember nothing about the past 1.5 hours of the GTA’s “data dump” except that their hands hurt from writing or that Alexa Jones was fun to mess around with. This was a “lecture” class and sadly, not much “education” or learning happened.
Now think about that comparative literature or fundamentals of marketing class in which the instructor challenged you to think and embrace his/her teachings during every class. You left class mentally “full” and could use the things you learned in everyday conversations. This teacher taught concepts that you probably still remember today. This was an “education.” Strive to be an “educator” and not simply a “lecturer”. Your audiences will appreciate it more than you know!
6. Be Authentic
If you want your audience to believe you then it’s important that you are natural and believable in your delivery. Audiences are smart; they generally know when a presenter is being “real” or “faking it.” They will embrace an authentic performance far more easily than one they perceive to be inauthentic. Powerful speakers and presenters are those to whom people can easily relate as fellow human beings because they are speaking and presenting from an authentic place.
With the advent of social media we can easily see others’ lives just as easily as they can see ours. We find comfort in knowing that others have similar struggles and victories to those that we experience. We want to know that we are not alone in our humanity. The best way to demonstrate our authenticity is by being willing to share stories and experiences with our audiences, by not trying to be someone else, but, rather feeling safe and confident enough to be seen as who we really are. This concept is apparent in video blogs, live webinars and on-line learning tools in which the speakers and presenters are not “perfect.” They allow themselves to be seen as “real and imperfect” presenters and speakers. Being authentic, believable and relatable to your audience is a powerful tool that creates a lasting bond of credibility with your audience.
7. Weak Standing Positions
As a speaker/presenter you want to let your audience know that you are confident about your message. While your verbal message may be well crafted and delivered with vocal confidence, your body position can contradict even the strongest vocal performance. Standing with your feet under your shoulders and your head aligned on top of your shoulders is a powerful and confident position. Yet, many presenters cross their legs while standing, bend side to side, cross their arms over their chest, or lean forward at the waist. These are weak positions and can leave your audience to believe that you lack confidence.
I encourage you to watch Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk entitled Some examples of how power posing can actually boost your confidence. Her study showed that after only 2 minutes of standing in a power pose, people experienced a 20% increase in testosterone, which made them feel more assertive and confident.
Before and during your next presentation, try power poses!
“Our bodies can change our minds.” – Amy Cuddy
Now that you have strategies to transform from a good to great speaker, put them to use! Practice until they become habit.
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