Tired of being an average public speaker? Here are 6 ways to make your presentations crisp, engaging, and exciting!
Recently, I attended an industry conference where the morning’s events included a keynote speech followed by a panel. That, of course, is a familiar and often successful format.
At this particular conference, the panel was strong, but the keynote wasn’t. That’s always unfortunate if a keynote kicks off the day’s events. A leadoff speech should do three things: 1) set the tone of the meeting, 2) tap into the themes of the gathering, and 3) raise audience expectations and convince them it was worthwhile to devote a day to this event.
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As I listened to this speaker, however, I found myself thinking, “This speech is perfectly fine.” But that’s never good enough when you consider that a speaker's job is to change listeners' lives. So, here are six practical ways you yourself can go from an average presentation to one that impresses your audience. Because who ever said that as you deliver something of value to listeners, they shouldn’t think of you as a memorable speaker?
Six Ways to Speak with Greater Stage Presence and Charisma
- Never Minimize or Apologize. There are ways you can diminish the importance of your speech by what you say without any help from those ready to criticize you. From the truly counterproductive “Please forgive me if I’m nervous,” to the other popular expressions of anxious speakers, such as “I’ll be quick,” or “I know this is an eye chart!,” you must avoid undermining your own credibility. Assume you have something valuable to offer and that listeners want to hear it. After all—they’re here, aren’t they?
- Speak to the Humans. It’s easy to become more comfortable with your content than the strangers facing you. So why not look at the PowerPoint screen as you're talking? The answer, of course, is that you can’t move slides to take the action you're looking for. If catching an audience member’s eye throws you off track, you need to rethink your approach to presenting. The essence of successful speaking is the chemical reaction that takes place between you and your audience, not getting off stage with your skin intact.
- Develop Your Logic. The conference speaker I was listening to hadn’t developed the logic of his speech. Remember: you know how the main points of your talk fit together, but your audience doesn’t. If you find yourself saying things like, “I’m going to jump to this topic,” or “Switching gears again,” or announcing the next point without any attempt to relate it to the previous one, you can be sure you’re going to leave your audience in the dust. Here's how to build an effective presentation using my 7-step method.
- Tell a Story. Stories are exciting; data usually isn’t. In a word, stories are sexy. Try this experiment for becoming a memorable storyteller: Take a talk where you basically delivered information. This time, shape that content into a story listeners need to hear, but in a way that allows them to relate it to their experiences. Now you’re approaching your true task as a speaker: to influence listeners intellectually and emotionally. We love stories because they help us process information as human responses—ultimately, our own.
- Use Your Performance Space. When you speak, you're a performer, no less than a Broadway actor. Part of the excitement of public speaking comes from the fact that it’s a physical performance delivered right there in front of everyone. Speakers who lead know the secrets of powerful body language. Yes, link gestures to your content (Hamlet’s “suit the action to the word, the word to the action”), but also use the stage to literally reach an audience. Be there for every part of the crowd, however close you can come.
- Disrupt Yourself. Adult learning theory states that people can pay attention for around 20 minutes. At that point, something needs to change. The other day, the speaker went well beyond that point. So, my question to you: “Where/when do you DISRUPT the stasis of your presentation?” How? An activity, video clip, audience discussion, demonstration—the list is limited only by your creativity. Otherwise, your audience may sail along pleasantly, unsuspecting prisoners of a current that's taking them nowhere in particular.