The very thought of public speaking terrifies many of us. In fact, the fear of public speaking ranks higher than the fear of death. It's crazy, but true.
But whether we like it or not, public speaking is a fact of life. Whether you're doing a presentation at a conference or event, or pitching to clients in the workplace, we all have to take the stand at some point.
But presenting to your audience doesn't have to be a tongue twisting disaster. When it's done right, it can be the most effective form of communicating and can often lead to new business and open doors to new opportunities.
Here are my top 10 tips on how to deliver a presentation that will get an applause from any audience.
1. Preparation is key
The best way to wow your audience is to deliver a clear, concise message. But for this to happen, you need to prepare and practice thoroughly before every interview.
Writing a game plan which covers key issues and the message you want to communicate can be a great way to clarify your thoughts. Even better, practice in front of the mirror or film yourself to identify areas for improvement. The more prepared you are, the better you will be able to get your key messages across.
2. Think confident thoughts
How you look on stage is crucial to how your audience will perceive you. Try to look relaxed and calm, and use slow, controlled gestures. If you look and speak confidently, you will appear more credible and people will be less likely to notice if you make a mistake.
It's also worth taking some time to figure out what you will wear. A simple and professional outfit is the safest bet. Avoid wearing stripes, checks, herringbone, small intricate designs or flashy jewellery as they can be distracting at times.
3. Get excited
It's important to speak more expressively and energetically than usual when you're presenting to an audience. Your message is less likely to be heard if you speak in a monotone, and speaking in a dreary tone won't captivate any audience.
Your voice should lift and drop, and increase and decrease in volume. Practice on your family and friends to make sure you don't overdo it.
4. Think before you speak
How you engage with your audience will depend on the type of speaking opportunity you're doing, but regardless of where your presentation takes place, it's important not to ramble. Take a moment to think about what you say, and pause between thoughts. If you are in an interview situation and the journalist is quiet, don't feel as though you have to keep talking.
Keeping your words concise and to the point will help people to digest what you're saying. Also pause instead of using filler words such as 'um' while thinking. And if you make a mistake, just correct yourself and move on. Don't dwell on it.
5. Hold your gaze
Trying to figure out where to look can be unsettling for anyone who is taking to the spotlight. Look for the 'lighthouses' in the room - the people that are really engaged. By looking at them from time to time throughout your presentation they will give you energy and confidence.
Getting up in front of a room of people can rattle even the strongest nerves, so it's important to relax and take a break from reading your notes. It can be useful to put your notes down in the 30 minutes prior to your interview to give your brain some time to unwind. Try and calm your nerves by calling a family member or friend, or stepping outside for some fresh air.
7. Believe in yourself
You don't have to be a professional speaker to take the stage at events, and anyone with expert knowledge can be a speaker. If you remain confident, calm and collected, and if you really believe in what you have to say, you will be able to connect with any audience. If you don't feel you have these qualities, public speaking training may help you to prepare ahead of time.
8. Promote your business and services
When you take the stage at any event, you can include case studies or examples from your business in your presentation. This will not only improve your credibility by showing you're an expert in your field; it will also help you to build your brand awareness with the audience. However, keep in mind that you should never be overly promotional or talk about your business too much.
9. Network, network, network!
Events offer a great opportunity to connect with other speakers and attendees. Often members of the audience will be eager to catch up with you after the presentation because something you said resonated with them. This is a great time to get their details and determine if they would be interested in your business or services.
10. Position yourself as an expert
Speaking to an audience gives you automatic credibility on your subject matter. By honing your presentation skills, connecting with your audience and presenting at multiple events related to your field, you will become well known in your industry. If you get the mix right, soon people will be contacting you to speak at their events.
Catriona Pollard is the author of From Unknown To Expert, a step by step framework designed to help entrepreneurs develop effective PR and social media strategies to become recognised as influencers in their field.
Catriona is also the director of CP Communications, which merges traditional PR tactics with cutting-edge social media strategies that engage consumers as well as business.
Catriona Pollard Communications Pty Ltd
Suite 404, 10-12 Clarke Street, Crows Nest NSW Australia 2065
P: (02) 9460 9200
T: @catrionapollard and @CPCPR