Some are blessed with excellent skills in public speaking, but a lot of people are not. In fact, you can say that virtually everyone requires practice and guidance before they can begin presenting in front of a crowd without having a nervous breakdown or panic attack.
The truth is, even the most seasoned and skilled presenter can feel uncomfortable the first few times they stand on the podium. After all, having all eyes on you is an experience you’ll need time to get used to.
Still, even if you manage to keep your stage fright in check and stay focused on the task at hand, it doesn’t automatically mean your presentation would be excellent. In short, you can still lull people to sleep while you speak onstage.
That is, of course, unless you start looking for ways to deliver great presentations.
When you’re having trouble delivering fun and engaging presentations, you might feel like giving up. But you shouldn’t lose hope, for you are not alone. There are a lot of people out there who have trouble presenting and decide to hire a professional freelance presenter instead.
While there’s absolutely nothing wrong about letting experts do the work, you can still try to learn how to overcome the challenge of delivering excellent presentations. In this article, you will learn the secrets about how to present like a pro.
1. Prepare thoroughly
Many people believe that business mogul and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is the best presenter of this modern era. This is probably because, every time he hits the stage, he always comes off as a natural showman.
However, there’s a lot of preparation that goes into his every presentation. In fact, he spent weeks rehearsing again and again until his presentations were honed to perfection.
While this doesn’t necessarily mean you can become the next Steve Jobs, taking a page from his book can teach you a lesson or two in the value of thorough preparation before a presentation.
To help you out, here is a checklist of the tasks you must do before you can present an exemplary speech in front of a crowd:
Make visually appealing slides
Visual aids are important in attracting and keeping audience attention. But while the design and format will depend on who you’re presenting to, the most basic rule is to make it so that your audience can easily understand your message.
Prepare notes in bullet point format
Reading or memorizing written speeches word-for-word is problematic, especially if you tend to become nervous when onstage. Written speeches can also be a bit confining for presenters who are used to extemporaneous speaking.
However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any notes to guide you. There must be a balance between speaking naturally and staying on point.
If you prefer to talk spontaneously, you can stay on-point by writing all your talking points on a piece of paper. This can also help if you cannot think as fast as the speed of sound, as the key ideas are already laid out on paper.
Practice in front of a friendly audience
Aside from speaking in front of the mirror or recording yourself while speaking, it would also help if you practice your presentation in front of a friend, a loved one, or anyone you trust. Since it feels a bit closer to what you’ll experience on stage or at the podium, this can serve as the final run-through of your speech.
2. Practice K.I.S.S.
No, this isn’t the act of showing your affection to a loved one or the name of a popular rock band. KISS, in this case, is an acronym for “keep it short and sweet.”
When it comes to presenting, very long and meandering speeches may cause you to lose your audience early on.
In fact, it is even likened to a test of endurance that only a few brave listeners can survive. And letting you finish doesn’t necessarily mean they understood your message thoroughly.
To avoid this, keep your presentation short and sweet. Remember that people’s attention span drops rapidly after listening to a speech for 30 minutes.
Plus, there’s also the risk of watering down the core thought of your presentation, leaving the whole point moot.
Follow the example of many famous speakers in history and condense information as much as you can in short phrases and sentences that are packed with meaning.
Take 35th U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s famous line, for example. “It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses what he means in less than 20 words and still makes the audience think.
3. Start with a Good Ice Breaker
Breaking the ice at the very beginning of your talk is an excellent way to set the mood and set yourself up for a successful presentation. This can help you build rapport with your audience who initially sees you as a stranger onstage.
But what does an ice breaker need to be considered good? Simple: it must incite an emotional response from the audience.
The type of emotion is irrelevant – you can make them laugh, pique their curiosity, or even shock them into listening. The key is to replace the feeling of indifference they felt initially.
That said, you have a lot of choices when it comes to effective ice breakers, but the most successful ones known today are:
- Stories that tug at one’s heartstrings
- Shocking statements
- Relevant and interesting anecdotes
- Comparisons or metaphors that help make a point clear
Whatever you choose to do, you must not linger on it too much. Keep it short and move on when you already got a reaction.
4. Avoid Mentioning the Less Important Stuff at the End
Sometimes, you may be given limited time to speak or have been rushed unexpectedly into hastening your presentation.
When this happens, it can be tempting to put seemingly less important details of your presentation at the end. You’re probably thinking you can deliver them only if you still have time.
However, such an approach is flawed as each point you present should be vital to the message. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have included it in your speech in the first place.
Instead of doing this, think about using a summary to bookend your speech. This way, no vital information will be lost even if your time on the podium is cut short.
It may come a bit redundant, but it is necessary:
Tell the audience what you plan to tell them before telling them what it is. After that, tell them what you just told them.
In simpler terms, start by mentioning key points they could take away from the speech. Then, take them through the material. Finally, summarize the points you just presented and remind them of their importance.
Great public speakers may make it look easy, but delivering great presentations every single time requires effort and dedication.
If you want to follow in their footsteps, practice the tips listed in this article and watch as you grow more comfortable in front of an audience.