A recent New York Time survey result ranked the greatest fears as:
- Public Speaking
Public Speaking was the number 1 fear by a large margin over the others. You can be an extrovert and still shiver at the thought of public speaking. In fact, fear of public speaking seems to be very agnostic as to whom it will affect. There are lots of great books on the subject and I would not attempt to either plagiarize their content nor attempt to condense it all into a single blog post. This post is for the consultants who have to do presentations as a part of their job.(ie. most of us). Here are a few quick pointers that everyone can benefit from, both the polished professional presenter and the ones that avoid giving presentations like the plague.
If you have recently seen The King’s Speech and its recount of Albert’s 1925 Wembley Stadium performance, you can appreciate the impact that a poorly executed presentation or speech can have. Fortunately most of us do not have to overcome physical impediments to deliver a great presentation. For most of us, it’s just learning the tricks and practicing them to deliver a great presentation.
What do the following lines have in common?
- “…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” – Gettysburg Address – Abraham Lincoln
- “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear… is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” – First Inaugural – Franklin D. Roosevelt
- “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” – Inaugural Address – John F. Kennedy
- “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'” – Lincoln Memorial – Martin Luther King Jr.
They were historic – yes.
They changed the world – yes
They were rehearsed ….
Yes the greatest public speaking moments of all time were not the product of improvisation. They were written and practiced over and over again. That in itself is the most important factor in nailing the presentation. It needs to be rehearsed and practiced. Great presentations, badly delivered are still bad presentations. It is astounding to me that some consultants will put more time into animating a PowerPoint slide than they will into making sure they can deliver the content.
You don’t have to be a great presenter to give a great presentation. You have to be a competent presenter to give a great presentation. Yes, the content does actually matter. A great presenter can’t make bad content appealing but a bad presenter can make great content suck every time. You just have to be competent to nail the presentation. You can do that with just 10 simple things…
Presenting? Check to make sure you are doing the following …
- Eye Contact – connect with 1 person at a time, spend at least 5 seconds of eye contact with that person, it makes you appear friendly, dynamic and engaging
- You can’t read a script and have eye contact so you need to know your content without looking at it all the time. Create large bullet form reminders within sight without turning away from your audience
- If you do look at the PowerPoint behind you or other visuals, never talk while facing them or in the process or turning around to face your audience again. You want to connect with them only.
- Don’t Rush. Too slow is better than too fast, less information is better than too much information. If you are spinning through slides in less than 60 seconds each, you are going way too fast or have too much content for the time allotted.
- Be yourself attempting anything else will always come off phony.
PowerPoint Content? Check to make sure you are doing the following …
Assume the level of intelligence and understanding on the part of your audience and build the presentation for the most knowledgeable attendee not the least. It is better to err on the side of thinking your audience smarter than the opposite. Nothing upsets an audience more than being talked down to.
Make 100% sure you are clear on the purpose of the presentation and toss any slide that does not clearly support the purpose
- Text, Graphs, Pictures– brief, concise and readable, (Narrative should be what you talk to and not on the slide)
- Tell your audience about the content to be presented, talk to the content and summarize what you have talked to them about in key points
and lastly # 10 – Rehearse it end to end
“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.” — Dale Carnegie – Free Dale Carnegie ebook on public speaking available here.