If you have ever been tasked to prepare and deliver presentations, at intimate internal meetings or large industry gatherings, you will understand nervous energy. The jitters are generated by your acknowledgement that you will not only be judged on what you say, but also on how you say it. Thankfully, there are tried and tested steps that can help you conquer the collywobbles, before you arrive on the public speaking stage, and whilst you are performing on it.Step 1 – Planning
Improve the flow and organisation of your presentations by carefully targeting and pre-planning your content. Aim to address the specific needs of your audiences by understanding that the content you include in a sales pitch is totally different from what you use for an industry conference.
Rather than simply offering rafts of generalisations, hone your subject matter in to the theme of the event at which you are presenting, or address any topical issues that are currently big news.
Once you have decided on the main ideas you wish your presentations to impart, incorporate them in to storylines. Make your stories audience focused and develop them in accordance with your overriding theme. Go to great pains to ensure that your stories flow logically and sequentially, so as not to confuse your audiences by skipping backwards and forwards. Ensure that your stories pack potent punches by embellishing them with human examples, whether they are your own, your colleagues, your clients or suppliers, even famous or historical figures.Step 2 – Choosing Words
Avoid the temptation to throw in words and phrases simply because you like the sound of them. They are rendered inadequate if they do not directly correlate to the core of your presentations. Public speaking is doubtlessly enhanced by the use of richly descriptive language, but it is equally as diminished by poor word choices. By all means make dynamic choices, but stick to the point when saying what you mean. Your audiences will not be foiled if they are unconvinced that you do not mean what you say.Step 3 – Cutting Jargon
A small amount of ‘industry speak’ is acceptable if your presentations are delivered to audiences who solely operate within a particular sector. If you find that your presentations are intentionally or unintentionally peppered with jargon, ask yourself if you have included it to simply enhance your stature as an authority on your subject matter. Will anything be lost by ditching them and speaking plainly and cojently? Likewise, avoid using slang in a bid to sound ‘down with the kids’.Step 4 – Avoiding Pauses
Reduce your tendency to slip annoying “Ummms” and “Errrs” in to your presentations by giving yourself alternative stalling devices. Instead of mumbling and fumbling, take a sip of water or ask your audience if they have any questions at this stage whilst you recover from momentary concentration lapses.Step 5 – Practicing
The spoken word is a powerful thing and, whilst practice may not immediately make your presentations perfect, it will certainly set you on the right track to getting there. After choosing your words carefully, practice delivering them with charisma and passion.Step 6 - Empathising
Your carefully planned presentations will be dead in the water if you are unable to empathise with your audiences and kindle immediate rapport with them. From the get go, make and maintain eye contact. Be open and smile. Gauge their reactions by spotting if they are glazing over in confusion or nodding in concurrence. Step 7 – Being You
It is only natural to want to put your game face forward when public speaking. Yet do not confuse this with false airs and graces or a feigned style of speaking. You have been asked to speak and your audiences largely want to learn from your presentations, so do not forget to be the way you are. Anything else is false and unnatural.Step 8 – Performing
A natural and relaxed style is an important contributory factor to friendly and well received presentations. You might, however, check that you do not become too casual and forget that you are under public scrutiny. Maintain a strong and open posture, respond to your audiences, but do not allow yourself to get unnecessarily sidetracked. Do not scratch unless you absolutely have to, fidget, mess with your hair or shuffle your papers.Step 9 – Enlisting Humour
By all means include a few jokes if you have confidence in your ability to pull them off. If you are naturally quick witted, a little appropriate humour will complement your presentations. However, carefully avoid anything that audience members have the remotest chance of finding embarrassing or uncomfortable.Step 10 – Having Confidence
Confidence inevitably grows with experience, but it is also a product of positive mental attitude. Allow your passion for your subject matter and your enthusiasm about sharing your knowledge to shine through when public speaking. Imagining that your audience will be inspired by what you have to say translate in to an enormous confidence boost.