By Neya Abdi on May 10, 2017 1:20:24 PM
Are you terrible at public speaking? Good news: You don’t have to be.
Public speaking is a skill. Contrary to popular belief, a bad public speaker can improve. While it may take some practice in front of a bathroom mirror, anyone can learn how to give a great presentation that captivates their audience.
1. Know What You Want To Say
A focused and structured presentation keeps your audience engaged. A rambling, disjointed speech loses listeners and leads to confusion. When you prepare your remarks, think about what your goal is. Do you want to:
- Inform your audience?
- Entertain your audience?
- Motivate your audience?
Return to your objective as you prepare your presentation. Are you going off on a tangent that has nothing to do with what you want to accomplish? Scratch it from your speech.
2. Hook Your Audience With an Interesting Fact or Good Story
Hooking an audience is an art form and the best public speakers know how to have people hanging on their every word. If you’re just starting out, an easy but effective way to do this is to start your speech with an interesting fact or statistic like:
- Seventy percent of Americans believe granola bars are healthy. Over seventy percent of nutritionists disagree.
- A 119-pound individual can be considered obese.
- Giraffes are actually four different species.
- There are over a hundred different words for “added sugar”.
Just be certain to pick a statistic that is relevant to your presentation.
If opening with a fun fact isn’t your style, try telling a personal story. In fact, a story might be better than a statistic if you’re giving a presentation on a dry topic. Your audience will appreciate it.
3. Make It About Your Audience, Not You
People want to know what’s in it for them (even if they’re technically obligated to listen).
What are some pain points your audience has? If your talk is about stress management, highlight some of the struggles employees may face in the workplace. If they can see themselves reflected in the presentation, they’ll be more inclined to pay attention to the advice and suggestions.
Another way to incorporate your audience is to make your presentation interactive. Ask people to provide specific examples of workplace stress and efficiency issues and then tailor your advice towards their situation.
4. Make Your Delivery Natural and Conversational
Don’t keep your nose buried in your notes. Look around and make eye contact with different members of the audience. Avoid a monotone voice at all costs and be energized and engaged.
This isn’t something you have to be born with. This is something you can practice. Rehearse your presentation as many times as possible so that you’re not forced to read off cue cards.
If you’re talking about something you know well, your notes should only be point-form reminders of what you want to cover.
5. Record Yourself
It may be embarrassing and awkward, but the best way to improve is to watch yourself in action. Since you can’t clone yourself, your second best option is to ask someone to record you. This helps you pick up on bad public speaking habits like anxiously pacing or moving your hands too much.
6. Dress Up
If you look good, you feel good. Dedicating an extra twenty minutes to your appearance the morning of a big speech helps you feel confident, competent, and professional.
With some practice and patience, you’ll be giving presentations like a pro in no time.
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