Public speaking tips
By Emily Refermat
As a mechanic moving up the corporate ladder nothing is more important than your presentation skills. Research suggests that speaking ability may be even more important than education or experience. So whether giving presentations returns you to an anxious teenager in high school speech class imagining the audience in their underwear or you revel in having the full-attention of a crowded room, here are a few tricks of the trade to make your presentations worth an A+.
Whenever you are presenting or speaking at a meeting you should begin with in-depth planning. Planning is 90 percent of the battle in public speaking and can make you feel more comfortable if you don't like giving presentations.
Audience should be the first consideration for any presenter. Consider how much your audience knows about the subject you're speaking on so you won't bore them by telling them things they know or talk over their heads with industry specific jargon. Consider how your audience most often participates in presentations - listening attentively, needing lots of breaks, short attention span, hands-on learners, etc. and plan accordingly. Remember to keep your audience in mind when considering a joke in your speech since you don't want to offend anyone.
Objectives are your next big obstacle in creating a presentation. Determine exactly what you want to accomplish and tell your audience these objectives upfront so they know what to look for and what they should be getting out of this. It will also help to keep you on track if you happen to get off on a tangent.
Signal words such as "critical," "important," and "real" throughout your presentation help your audience focus on your main points and not get caught up in the details. Use these for each main point.
Location is important because people learn better when they aren't distracted. Being too hot, too cold, outside noises and movement, phones ringing, etc. all divert people's attention away from you and your information.
Arrangement of the chairs and lecturer are also important. Chairs arranged in a semicircle facilitate interaction between the audience members themselves and the presenter. A more formal arrangement with chairs in straight rows is more appropriate when you are lecturing to a group, but is not particularly engaging, lulling your audience.
Presentation aids should add to the information you present. Although you don't want to overload your presentation, bright colors and big props can break up the monotony of text or lecture style presentations. If you're using slides consider readability from a distance. The easiest colors to read are yellow text on a blue background. The main thing is to find new and interesting ways to present material. If everyone is using slides, do something different. Even boring information seems more valuable and will be remembered if delivered in a unique way. A speaker talking on safety matters ran around with a biohazard bag taped to his chest during his whole presentation.
Breaks are an important part of a long presentation. People need to be refreshed, check messages, go the bathroom, grab something to eat, and be recharged for a few minutes. The human mind just can't absorb everything that's put in front of it. Breaks release that extra energy and help the audience to be more alert for important information from your presentation.
Style is the final piece to planning your presentation. You should use a style you're comfortable with, but that still engages your audience. Moving around and talking directly to members of your audience is an effective way of keeping their interest. Changing your presentation every three to five minutes also keeps the audience on their toes. To change your presentation do a group activity, get out or present a new visual aid, ask impromptu questions, do something hands-on, or anything else you can think of. If you want them to remember your information catch their attention and change things around to keep it.
Delivery is the last 10 percent of any presentation and the best thing you can do is to have planned well, be prepared, and practice. Never exceed your time. Time is valuable and people appreciate short, concise presentations. Plus, you should leave extra time for questions and answers since this is the most useful part of most presentations. Don't forget to use your body language and voice to present your information. Enthusiasm will make what you say better and if you look confident your audience will have more faith in what you say.
Anxiety and you
The fear of public speaking is No. 1 among Americans (beating the fear of death at No. 6). If you feel nervous here are some things you can do:
- Arrive early so you don't feel rushed.
- Don't let negative thoughts play over and over in your head. Think to yourself how prepared you are and how you practiced and you'll do great.
- Relax. Try focusing on relaxing your muscles every time you breathe out. Picture the muscles loosening with each exhale.
- Have a glass of water in case your mouth goes dry or you need a moment to think.
- Look at smiling faces or the faces of friends when you're speaking. If even these people make you nervous, then look at the top of the audience's heads instead of their eyes.
- And don't forget to imagine your audience in their underwear.
Next time it's your turn to present something or just lead the weekly staff meeting, use these tips to get your point across more effectively and make the experience enjoyable for you and your audience. The more you do it, the easier it will get and that could help you further your career.