Whether you’re a lawyer, small business owner, accountant, or architect, chances are you’ve been expected to give a presentation at some point in your career. You’ve probably also experiences feelings of nervousness and panic, and felt completely unprepared. It’s a universally known fact that public speaking is considerably nerve-wrecking, even for the most confident. But, unfortunately, it’s a necessary evil that we’re all going to have to deal with in order to succeed.
Thankfully it doesn’t have to be a completely negative experience. With time and practice, even those who once felt they were the worst public speakers will be able to captive a crowd without stuttering through their entire speech. You may not master it perfectly at first, but you will improve.
So, what are you currently doing wrong? And most importantly, what do you need to do to get to this stage?
Preparation is Key
Some people are more comfortable if they don’t prepare. They excel when they’re put into high pressure situations and have to act on instinct. However, these people are the minority, and it’s not always the most secure method. Most of us are only at our best when we put in the time and effort needed to succeed. Even if you think you’re better without preparation, try to be more organised.
At the very least, create an outline of what you plan to say, when you will say it, and what to do if you’re speech veers off course. At the same time, don’t be too organised. Don’t simply read from notecards and never recite a polished written essay, your audience will see right through you. Organise your thoughts in a way that will allow you to sculpt your arguments, but at the same time, give yourself the freedom to mould your thoughts as you share them.
Once you’ve planned your presentation, you need to practice how you’re going to deliver it. The key thing to keep in mind is remaining genuine. Don’t put on a false persona in an attempt to please your crowd. If you’re better with numbers than with heavy dialect, apply it into your speech. If you’re naturally funny, make your speech a bit more light-hearted. Don’t force your words, let them flow as if you were having a conversation with a close friend. We all know how dreary presentations can be when the speaker is hiding behind their words, so don’t be afraid to bring your personality into it.
Make a Connection, Be Empathetic
Make your presentation more personal by empathising with your audience. If you can, conduct some research about your audience and tailor the content towards them. For example, if you’re talking to a room full of parents, hit on some concerns you know will be common amongst them and address what you’re going to do to help. Don’t discuss a problem without offering a solution, or your audience may not get behind you.
Embracing a bit more empathy will also help you respect those listening to you more, as you’ll start to see them as humans rather than just a daunting crowd. If you start giving your presentation a bit more purpose (as being something that’s going to help people out), it will help you make it more meaningful and give you more motivation to deliver it well.
Don’t Drag It Out
No-one enjoys a two-hour speech that could have been completed in 15 minutes. If you’ve been given a set amount of time, don’t feel like you need to spend it all talking. Use visual aids, conduct demonstrations if necessary and get your audience involved through questions, or even a game. Keeping people interested is essential. Don’t lose them by rambling on excessively.
Hopefully, the above advice will come in useful, but the main thing you need to do is be willing to learn. Crowds can be tough, so to captivate them you must grow as a communicator every day. Never stop utilising available resources to strengthen your abilities. When in doubt, there are always presentation skills courses that will teach you how to succeed. Talking to an expert is often the best solution, so if you feel you’re unable to motivate yourself, it may be wise to investigate the help that’s out there.
Crowds are hard to captivate, and sometimes things just don’t go your way. But when fear can be hidden away and personal growth can be achieved, there is no use in ignoring methods that could be beneficial to you. Try avoiding the mistakes that are only leading to your downfall and take on some of the above tips.
Hopefully, your next presentation will be that bit less painful.