So you have agreed to speak in public to an audience, either in a presentation, an interview, a speech or as part of a panel of experts. This could be in a business setting, to a broadcast media such as radio or at a social function; whichever it is you are doubtless nervous, keen to make a good impression and quite possibly regretting your bravado when you said yes.
Over the past few years I have had the pleasure of speaking in many different situations and have experienced all these emotions and quite a few others. Please note, I am not a presentation coach, nor have I used one, but to those of you who are about to embark on this path here are a few tips based on my personal experiences.
First of all, clearly establish why you have been asked or why you volunteered to speak. What is expected of you? Are you an expert on a subject? Are you promoting a product, service, event or charity? If a social function, such as a wedding, who are you talking about and why? Be clear in the role you are expected to fill and you can then prepare accordingly.
Preparation is central to successful speaking, it enables you to organise your thoughts, clarify your message and to master your emotions. If you turn up having done no research, with no notes and no understanding of your audience then you are right to feel nervous. Remember the five P’s, Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. If you know deep down inside that you have prepared as well as possible, you have that inner confidence to reassure you.
Think carefully, what is the message you want to get across before you write your presentation. What are the key facts? People, products, services, places, numbers, events, contact details. Ensure that whatever your key points are that you place emphasis on the core message. The old adage says, “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. Don’t blow your big opportunity to get your message across.”
Keep the language at an appropriate level, avoid jargon wherever you can, or if you must use jargon give an explanation in simple terms. Don’t swear should go without saying but what about humour? Humour is very subjective, what one person finds funny is offensive to another. Keep the tone suitable for the occasion without being too dry, in some settings it might be right to be risque, the best man’s speech is a classic example, but hints and suggestions can still get the message over without upsetting the bride’s mother.
If presenting a seminar or speech, write the speech in full, read it, time it, amend it if needed, read it again and learn it, like an actor learning lines. Make sure you are comfortable with the material and it sounds natural when spoken out loud. Next make key point notes on a series of cards, not re-writing the full speech, just bullet points or even pictures that will remind you what comes next.
Using visual images in a PowerPoint presentation or similar is a great way of reinforcing your message. But beware “Death by PowerPoint!” Do not put your script on display and read it out-loud. The visual display should be images, graphs or bullet points to reinforce your message. Keep it clear, simple and supportive of your speech.
If you are on a panel or likely to face questions give some thought to what questions may be asked and prepare some answers. Stories and examples of what has worked for you or clients is a great way of answering questions.
When a question is very specific to an individual don’t bore the entire audience, invite the person to chat after the session. If the question is beyond your technical knowledge, or you don’t have the answer to hand, don’t show your ignorance by waffling, offer to check the facts and ask the person to provide their contact details. Then follow up afterwards.
On the day, dress the part. Make sure you present the image you are looking to portray, even if you are going on the radio. If you feel smart, comfortable and look good your confidence will grow accordingly.
When it’s nearing time to face your audience, if possible remove yourself from the situation briefly. Go to the toilet, check your appearance, (double check flies on leaving the toilet) re-read your notes for a final time. Put on your bravest smile and face your public.
OK what to do when you face the audience in part two of the Blog…
About The Author: Nigel Wilkinson is Managing Director at WNW Design and has recently launched a new business www.nican.co.uk . In addition to his business interests, Nigel is married to Yoga Dance teacher Michelle, the father of teenage twins, Chairman of Exmouth Chamber of Commerce, an avid Networker, a Social Media commentator, a keen golfer and football supporter. You can follow him on Twitter @nigelwnw, or telephone on 01395 542569. You can also follow WNW Design on Facebook here.