Public speaking is a challenging endeavor. Even the experts get a few butterflies before hitting the stage. Whether you shrink from the mic or relish any opportunity to work a room, follow these six tips to avoid coming off like an amateur.
- Cut the Long-winded Intro: People will tune out if you make them listen to a lengthy bio. Whether you’re giving a keynote at a conference, a TEDx talk to a general audience, or a breakout session for a small group, it’s not about you. It’s about the audience. Keep your introduction short and cut the clichés. Instead of telling people you are honored to be there, show them with your well-prepared presentation.
- Don’t Rely on Slides: PowerPoint has its place, but it’s become a crutch for poor communicators. It is so pervasive in the workplace that many people talk directly to their slide deck ignoring the audience completely. At best, slides are back-up dancers. They are not your talk. As presenter you are both the medium and the message. If you must use slides make them visually pleasing and supportive of your topic. Remember people who can read, cannot NOT read. Once you give an audience a word-filled slide, they’ll unconsciously tune you out and beginning reading. Need 87-text heavy slides? Skip the speech and craft a whitepaper.
- Watch The Clock:Never exceed your allotted time. Professionals end on time. Know your talk so well that if asked, you could adjust your time to help the meeting planner get back on schedule.
- Embrace Low Tech:Having embedded video and web links can jazz up your presentation, but for every bell and whistle added you exponentially increase the risk of something going wrong. Be prepared to give you talk even if there’s a total technology failure.
- Never End with a Q&A: Always control the ending of your talk. When you insert a Q&A at the end you literally hand over the mic and risk your time on stage ending in with an irrelevant point, off topic question, or worse, a rebuttal to your core message. You can take questions and should engage with the audience but have a final point to share before leaving the stage.
- Embrace the Fear: Even when you know your material and have triple checked your slides, your mic…your fly, those pre-start butterflies can feel like B52 bombers. So, don’t fight it. Instead, make sure you have the first 60 seconds of your talk down cold with a focus of giving the audience a laugh or point to ponder. Butterflies scare quick. A minute in and they’ll be gone, allowing you to move forward with the crowd as an ally.
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