They work for me
(WORLD) I’m one of those weird people who loves to get up on stage to speak in front of hundreds of people.
My career only spans 4 years but in that time I’ve delivered talks on four continents and to thousands of individuals at cross-sector events, conferences and in-house sessions.
Along the way I’ve learned a few things and thought it time to share the wisdom. So without further ado, here’s ‘My Top Ten Speaking Tips’ (not in priority order) based on personal experience:
1. Finish the presentation the night before—it stays fresher in your brain than if you completed it a few weeks previous. This is important for my industry as stuff moves so quick but it also offers the opportunity to add in references from earlier talks (if it’s more than a one day event) plus ensures you can omit things which have already been covered. Most importantly though it doesn’t give you a chance to practice…
2. Don’t practice—a great talk is like a conversation (and no conversation goes the way you planned, no matter how many times you practice it in your head). Sure, run through it once to check the timings plus transitions etc but this is more an exercise of knowing what you want to convey rather than rehearsing exactly what to say verbatim.
3. Don’t do lecterns—it forms a physical barrier between you and your audience. Less is definitely more in this instance and before you say, “where do I put my script…?”
4. Never use a script—if you know your stuff you don’t need it written down. This method means: head down, losing intonation / connection with your audience / professionalism. We don’t talk the same way we write and it just doesn’t work. If you’re an organiser of any events / conferences, ban podiums and scripts. It will scare a lot away but I guarantee you’ll be left with fantastic speakers who simply know their stuff.
5. Let your client dictate the topic not the content—I once had a very needy client who heavily dictated the content of a presentation I was giving at their event to the point of even signing it off. It’s the ONLY time the organisers didn’t think I delivered (even though three quarters of the audience thought I was good/very good). Coincidence maybe, but experience tells me otherwise.
6. Move—the best speakers are passionate and passion means movement. Move around the stage / floor. Move your arms, your face, your eyebrows. Communicate with your body not just your words / slides.
7. Look at your audience—engage them through eye contact. Don’t pick a spot at the back of the room / hall and drift off. Sometimes this is hard if you’re speaking on a lit stage but you can still make people out. After a while you can have some fun with this: I like to pick out those yet to be convinced (you’ll spot them through body language—the ones with their arms crossed and sitting back in their seat—once you have them coming forward and sitting on the edge of their chairs and nodding their heads you know you’re onto a winner).
8. Bullets kill people—well maybe in this case it’s attention. People can read faster in their heads than you can read it out loud. The only words I use in my presentations are the titles for each slide. This directs my talk. They act as cues for the topics or a point I want to convey. The underline comes from the images/video plus the story weaved around it.
9. Fool your nerves—those damn butterflies can turn into courage-eating moths which can eat you from the inside out. Trick them. The emotional and physiological response to fear is exactly the same as when you’re excited. Tell yourself it’s not nerves but positive anticipation and after a while you will create an ingrained learned response.
10. Enjoy it—if you don’t have fun speaking then don’t do it. There are other ways to promote yourself or spread your message.
As stated, all of the above work for me—they might not work for you. Then again they could.
Do they help or hinder? Agree / disagree?