I took my first public speaking course during my junior year of high school. According to my teacher (and my grade), I couldn’t be heard passed the third row, my voice shook and I spoke ‘a mile a minute.’ I still remember my heart racing and just wanting the presentation to be over. Now (a few years later), this is what I do for a living. I give presentations to major corporations and at private seminars as part of my job. And, although I have learned to control the volume and steadiness of my voice and to speak slower, my heart still races. And I consider this a good thing.
When my heart races, I know I am invested. It tells me I care about what I am about to do. I always say, “Butterflies are good; just get them all flying in the same direction.” As far as controlling your body’s reaction to fear – all of that can be learned through muscle memory. Once you get beyond the fear, you still need to have solid presentation skills. So, before you think of a reason to avoid this challenge (and this topic all together), let’s go through my ‘Top 11’ list of effective presentation techniques.
1. Remember the audience is not out to get you. You have information to share, and they are in that room because they want to learn it. Acknowledge your expertise (at least to yourself).
2. Think conversation – not presentation. We are all more comfortable talking to someone about something (opposed to presenting) – that’s all you’re doing (just to a few more people). Think of this as a conversation – with a lot of people.
3. Use your voice. Think about what you want to emphasize and use pitch, pace and volume to add meaning to your words.
4. Use your body. Use your hands and facial expression to infuse power into the presentation.
5. Use your space. Don’t get stuck behind a podium. (if you are petite like me – they won’t see you over it anyway!) Walk around and use all the speaking space you have to create energy in the room.
6. Use your words. Key phrases such as “If you remember one thing…” can help call attention to important information.
7. Stay positive. Choose words that are neutral or positive in your phrasing. If you are going to use judgmental language – make sure it is has a positive conclusion.
8. Talk to the audience. Not to the wall, the floor, or the slides.
9. Maintain eye contact. This helps the presentation feel conversational, maintains audience attention and projects confidence.
10. Use silence. A powerful way to draw audience attention is to stop talking; also make direct eye contact so attendees know the silence is purposeful. Use pauses throughout to emphasize information and allow the audience to process the content.
11. Practice, practice, practice – it kicks fear’s butt every time.
Think you are ready to deliver a polished presentation? Go for it! And let me know which tips worked for you.