Done your preparation prior to speaking, now it’s time to face the audience. For many people this is where the nerves really hit, but it’s worth remembering that in the vast majority of cases the audience is completely on your side. They have given up their valuable time to listen to you and in 99.9% of cases are actually willing you to be a great speaker. They want to share your knowledge, be inspired or be entertained, ideally all three.
Take courage that the audience is already on your side and will forgive almost any flaw in your presentation style as long as you are saying something worth listening to. Everyone knows that it is tough to speak in public, they will have either done it themselves and know what you are going through or they are sat in awe that you had the bottle to stand up and speak, wishing they could be so brave themselves.
OK, deep breath, smile and engage your audience. Begin by offering thanks to whoever invited you or to the audience for coming along. Do not apologise for any perceived failings you may have, saying “I’m sorry i’m not very good at this” is a bad idea, people want you to be good and they want to agree with you, by suggesting you are not up to scratch it just makes people agree with that sentiment. Be confident and launch into what you have to say with as much confidence as you can muster.
If you are invited as an expert or someone with experience it probably means you are talking on a subject you enjoy and have an understanding of; try to impart your passion as much as your knowledge of the topic. People will have a limited opportunity to take notes but by enthusing them on your subject they will go away and do research themselves or if you are promoting a product or service will be convinced you are the person to do business with.
Speak slowly, clearly and with authority. Engage your audience with your eyes as well as your words, you know your lines, you have the cue cards and you have prepared properly on a subject you want to talk about, so connect with them and get your message across. Even with a large audience you can make eye contact, even if you can’t identify those at the back you can still look at them and make them feel involved. If possible try to find a friendly face, ideally someone you know to look for when you need reassurance.
Try not to fidget in a noticeable manner, focus your nervous energy. I always twist my wedding ring on my finger, a small controlled movement that doesn’t distract the audience but controls my hands and calms my nerves. When you do make gestures make them full and whole hearted, in sync with your words, not weakly trailing along as an after-thought.
It’s OK to walk about if the setting allows it but avoid falling off the stage! Rocking back and forward on the balls of your feet is also very distracting to an audience, plant your feet solidly on the ground and remain steady and balanced. Strangely this feeling of being solid also gives you inner confidence as well as presenting a confident and stable impression to those listening.
If possible, keep an eye on the time so as to keep within your allocated slot, but do not keep looking at your watch unless you have taken it off and placed it somewhere convenient to glance at. Don’t give the impression you would rather be somewhere else.
When you reach the end, thank your audience for listening and draw to a close. If appropriate, make yourself available afterwards for follow up questions or comments after the talk. If it’s a selling situation try to get attendees to provide their contact details, you might offer an incentive to obtain this information. If you get details then follow up with a call, email or letter, if you don’t follow up properly then don’t be surprised if you don’t sell.
In summary, know why you are speaking, identify your key message, rehearse your talk, be confident, connect with the audience and make sure you follow up afterwards.
Oh and enjoy yourself! It’s a very empowering feeling when successfully completed. Good luck.
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.