We all know that one of the most feared activities for most people is public speaking. That is because most of us think that we will not do this well and when you believe that, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I am going to provide you with some basic, simple keys so that you can become a capable, confident speaker, who actually enjoys making presentations.
Here are the keys:
- Change that negative “DVD” in your head to one that pictures you enjoying your presentation and doing an excellent job. If you do this you will have a far greater chance of actually making that come true!
- Try to anticipate situations that might arise during your presentation and how you would deal with them. For example, what if someone heckles you, or challenges elements you are describing? You need a strategy to deflect the interruption in a calm, respectful manner. Ask them how they would describe the element or to offer a more suitable example and then thank them for their contribution.
- What if someone asks you a question that you do not know how to answer? In the first place, again, you need to try to anticipate the questions that may arise during the session and prepare the answers. However, if you are actually asked a question that you do not know how to answer you have two choices. First, you can ask if anyone knows the answer to that question. Sometimes someone will help you and provide the answer. However, if no one does, do not assume that is because no one does know the answer. It may mean that no one wants to speak up in front of the group. In this case, tell your audience you do not know the answer and say this is an opportunity for you to learn something new and will be happy to share what you learn with anyone who wishes to provide you with their email address at the break or the end of the session. Never make up an answer because, as I said, someone will likely know the answer, maybe even a few people, and if you “fudge” an answer you will lose credibility with your attendees and they will not believe the other information you share.
- Do extensive research for your topic and then organize the elements you wish to share with good flow, stories, examples, and up to day facts that verify your information. Just retain the key pieces of information, discard “boring” stuff and keep focused on the elements you wish your audience to take away. Be sure to time your presentation in keeping with the time allotted to you. No one will be unhappy if you finish a little early, but they will not be very happy if you run over your time, especially if you do so for twenty minutes or more. Remember that a presentation will usually take longer in front of an audience than it does when you practice it at home.
- Speaking of practising……this is probably the most important part of any presentation. You need to know your material inside out, upside down, backward, and in your sleep. However, never memorize your talk because even seasoned speakers are generally a little nervous when they face a new cohort and that is normal and natural. In fact, you can leverage that anxiety-ridden boost of adrenalin to provide you with focus and extra energy which will actually help you to get started. Once you are into your presentation, if you know it really well, you will forget to be nervous because you are busy making your presentation. The more you practice, the more confident and comfortable you will become which will help you to lose your fear more quickly, get into your presentation and actually enjoy the session. If you have memorized your talk when the nerves kick in you will likely forget most of what you wanted to say and then you are frankly done! Seasoned speakers never memorize what they are going to say, they deeply understand and know their material and even have “options” of pieces they will or will not include, stories they might or might not tell, etc. Depending on how much input the audience offers they will decide which parts to leave out and of course keep in the key elements they want the audience to receive. The more experience you have the better you get at doing this. No one knows exactly what you are doing to say, so as long as you provide them with the information they are seeking, they will be satisfied.
- Get your audience actively involved in your presentation. Ask them questions, have them discuss scenarios or come up with examples to share with the rest of the audience from group discussions. Perhaps have them fill out a questionnaire and debrief it with audience participation. The more they come up with answers the more they will remember from your talk and you will not need to “spoon feed” them every point you wish you make. Humans remember more when they are actively coming up with information than when the speaker provides everything for them…..it just how our memory works.
If you follow these 6 basic keys you will actually find that public speaking does not need to be something to fear. In fact, you may discover that you like doing it and that your audience enjoys your presentations.