Posted by Todd Smith
While you may be reluctant or, even worse, scared to give a presentation in front of a group of people, it is one of life’s greatest personal growth experiences. When you have the opportunity to share your insights with a group, accept the invitation and watch your self-confidence and value to the market grow!
Over the last 25 years I have given more than 1000 presentations to groups as large as 50,000 people. During this time I have become a student of public speaking and hope you can benefit from some of the things I’ve learned when giving your next presentation.
1. Prepare – The more prepared you are, the more comfortable you will be come presentation time. Before I gave my first presentation I scripted out what I wanted to say word-for-word and memorized it. I then practiced in front of my video camera. While you may not need to take your preparation to that extreme, if you want to influence people with your presentation, make sure you are prepared.
2. Dress Appropriately – Just as someone forms an opinion of a website in less than one second, they will also form an opinion of you in less than a second. If you want them to take your message seriously, they need to take you seriously. While I hate wearing suits and ties, when I speak, I almost always wear a suit and tie.
3. Come Early – Arriving early reduces stress, allows you to become familiar with your surroundings, and gives you time to get set up without rushing. If you will be using in microphone, make sure it’s working and has a fresh battery if it’s wireless. If you are using a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation, make sure the remote is working and that your slides are being displayed correctly.
4. Use Visuals – I have found that using visual aids such as a PowerPoint or Keynote presentation helps. Not only do attractive slides help your audience absorb your message, but they also help you stay on track.
5. Make Sure Your Visuals are Readable– Be sure the fonts and images used are large enough that the people in the back of the room can easily see them. Throughout my career I have found that 80% of the people who use visuals don’t take into consideration that people will need to read them in the back of the room. Not only does this reflect poorly on the speaker, but it undermines their ability to connect with their audience.
6. Give the Person Introducing You Instructions – The person introducing you should have a short script or bullet points of what to say when introducing you. The goal is for this person to establish you as an authority on your subject.
7. Open with a Smile – I always open my presentations with a smile and warm welcome. When I do this I see people smiling back and beginning to connect with me. Try it and you will see what I mean.
8. Connect Emotionally – As you open your presentation, be warm and gracious and look for ways to emotionally connect with your audience. Help them feel the need for what you are offering.
9. Be Humble and Authentic – For some reason when people stand up and start speaking their egos grow like Pinocchio’s nose. If you want people to like you, respect you, and connect with you, be authentic and stay humble.
10. Stay on Time – Part of earning people’s respect as a presenter is making sure you are prepared to deliver your message in the time allowed. If you are giving a one-hour presentation, know where you want to be 15, 30, and 45 minutes into your presentation. If you see you are running behind at any of these points, then adjust to get yourself back on track. Rushing to finish makes you look like you weren’t prepared.
11. Make Eye Contact – If you want people to connect with you and your message, they need to feel included. That’s best done by making eye contact. If you are talking to a small group, look at each person for one or two sentences. If you are talking to a large group, look at each section of people for one or two sentences. Try to keep eye contact with each person or section until you complete your sentence, and then transition your eyes to another person or section of the room.
12. Walk Side to Side, But Never Backwards – When you are speaking be sure to walk from one side of the stage or room to the other as you include people from both sides. You should also avoid walking backwards while you are talking or people may feel a disconnection.
13. Be Clear – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in a room listening to someone and been completely lost or struggling to try to figure out what they are trying to say. Make sure you are speaking with crystal clear clarity and never use jargon, acronyms, and slang that people may not understand.
14. Provide an Overview and Summarize – Give people an overview at the beginning as to what you will be sharing, and then summarize what you’ve said when concluding your presentation. I always look to do this in a creative way, so the audience does not realize what I am doing.
15. Learn From Every Experience – Your goal should be to improve with each presentation you give. The best way to improve is to video tape your presentation. You will be amazed with what you see that you had no idea you were doing. If you can’t video tape yourself, at least audio record your presentation.
If you will implement these 15 tips when giving your next presentation, you will earn people’s respect and have influence with your audience. To learn how to structure your presentations, read my post titled, 10 Key Elements of a Persuasive Presentation.
Do you have tips you would like to share from your presentations? If so, share them below this post.
The most important element to speaking in front of a group of people is to be prepared.
Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 34 years and founder of Little Things Matter. To receive Todd’s lessons, subscribe here. All Todd’s lessons are also available on iTunes as downloadable podcasts.
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