Public speaking is one of the most common fears among businesspeople. Part of the reason for that is that they don’t think they do it well. Frankly, that is the sad truth for a lot of people. But by just keeping five simple tips in mind, you can turn a lackluster presentation into something that will impress your audience and get them to respond to your call to action.
First, before you ever walk to podium at the front of the room, know who it is you are talking to. Do your homework by getting a sense of the audience. Will it be serious, buttoned-down bankers? Or will it be a room full of wild and crazy sports marketers? Knowing who you’re talking to helps you know how to set the tone and how to speak their language.
Once you know that, think about the individuals in the audience and what their values are. You can’t know that about everyone, but think about the values common across that group. For the bankers, it may be risk aversion. For the sports marketers, it may be a common desire to crank up the hype level to 11. But if you can connect with that audience at a values level, you win them over.
Second, keep your presentation simple. Focus on just a couple of key points, and then expound on them. I think it was Dale Carnegie who advised speakers to tell your audience what you’re going to tell them. Then tell them. And then tell them what you told them. That’s a bit of an oversimplification, but the basic advice is golden: determine your most important points and drive them home over and over again.
Third, stories are important. They bring principles to life. But principles are too abstract by themselves. So introduce your principle, and then share a story that illustrates how that principle has been proven true in your own life. Not only is the audience better able to picture that principle through your story, but telling the story humanizes you as a speaker.
Fourth, ask something of your audience. As you conclude your presentation, present them with a call to action. Something that requires them to change their outlook or their habits, or otherwise take some action that they might not have taken if they hadn’t just heard your presentation. You might tell them to be sure to vote, or eat their vegetables every day, or start saving 10 percent of every week’s pay for a rainy day fund.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, be yourself. Audiences like an authentic speaker, someone with humility who is not afraid to talk about their mistakes and the challenges they faced in arriving at their place of certainty. You want the audience to respect your knowledge but to like you, to love you as an individual who is like them and far from perfect. They want someone who, figuratively speaking, walks alongside them, rather than stands above them and talks down to them.
Becoming a good speaker takes practice, of course, but if you put these tips to work, your performance, and your confidence, will improve with every outing.