In this column I have often urged those who want to establish themselves as experts in their chosen field to find speaking and teaching opportunities. Getting out in front of an audience is a time-tested way to identify and impress potential clients and referral sources, a good way to drum up business. So maybe it’s time to review a few useful presentation techniques that will make you feel more confident and therefore more likely to pursue this strategy.
Keep it simple and tell a story
The best speakers know that the more complex the topic, the more important to make it easy for the audience to understand. Distill a complicated message into fewer words. Include a personal anecdote or story that illustrates a key point you’re trying to make. A story makes your presentation more compelling by placing the message into a context that is relevant to the audience. A story paints a picture and helps the audience make sense of the topic.
You are the star
You are the speaker and the stage belongs to you. Do not allow slides to upstage your talk. How do you do that? By not using your slides as a crutch. By not posting your entire talk onto slides. Avoid presenting a boat load of text-heavy slides that you read from, instead of speaking to and connecting with those who came out for you.
On your slides include important charts and graphs, key statistics, major talking points and relevant visuals that support and advance your message. Practice your presentation often and get to know your material, so you won’t be overly dependent on slides.
Engage and involve your audience
Most of all, give the right talk. Know what the audience expects you to address. The person who schedules your talk can help you choose a topic and give you the heads-up re: big questions that audience members may want answered. To keep your audience engaged, pose a question or two at some point in your presentation. Also, be willing to answer questions as you go along and make your presentation more of a conversation with the audience.
While good content is essential, that alone will not win over an audience. Body language and delivery also matter. Audiences size up and judge a speaker within the first three minutes of a presentation. Be sure to project confidence, expertise, good humor and approachability. Smile, make eye contact and use a pleasant, yet authoritative, tone of voice. Show appropriate enthusiasm and passion for your subject matter. Let the audience know that you like being up there speaking.
How to get to Carnegie Hall
Practice and practice some more. It takes a lot of work to make a presentation look effortless. Skilled presenters give the impression that their clever ad libs and convincing responses to questions are all ex tempore, but nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is, successful presentations are built on lots of preparation and rehearsal time: wordsmithing what may sound too complex or unclear, deciding what text and visuals to include on slides, how to integrate the slides with the talk, anticipating questions and formulating good answers. Read your talk out loud and record your voice, to make sure that you pace your delivery appropriately.
An effective presentation should inform, educate and entertain. Make that happen when you simplify your message and de-clutter your slides, interact with the audience by asking and answering questions throughout your talk and practice a lot. Hit your mark and the audience will regard you as an expert. Mission accomplished.
Thanks for reading,