Public speaking is one of those things most of us are afraid of and yet it’s an inevitable part of our lives.
Whether you’re giving a presentation for work, for fun, or even for school, public speaking evokes fear in the minds and hearts of most people. For others, especially extroverts, it comes naturally. Regardless of how good we are at it, being able to convince others through our spoken words alone can be challenging and sometimes downright scary.
That’s why effective presentation techniques help.
Tell your audience why you are there.
Start by telling your audience who you are.
Tell me what your job is, and how it relates to the presentation. Briefly explain some of your credentials—for example, if you’re a marketing manager with 20 years in the industry, mention this very briefly.
Having relevant experience will build up trust with your audience.
Then give a brief overview of what you’re going to be talking about. If you have time, provide the context so that they understand why the topic is important and how it fits into their work or life.
If you can, show how your presentation topic aligns with some of the goals for individuals in the audience (e.g., “I’m going to teach you something that will save you three hours per week” or “Here’s something that will make your projects 50% more profitable”).
Finally, tell people two or three things that they’re going to learn from your presentation (e.g., “By the end of this presentation I want everyone in this room to be able to … ”).
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Ask your audience a question.
When giving a presentation, one of the most effective things you can do to build rapport with your audience is to ask them questions. Asking questions shows that you’re interested in your audience.
It also allows your audience to feel like they’re part of the conversation instead of just being talked at.
You can ask your audience questions about their interests and expectations, what they think about a topic related to the presentation, or how they feel about it.
You could also ask them questions about their expertise, knowledge, or experience related to the topic of your presentation.
This would be a good way to get them involved with the presentation right away and make them more comfortable participating during Q&A
Asking questions is also a great way for you as the presenter to learn more about your audience and tailor your presentation accordingly. Another bonus: asking questions will help you relax because you’ll have something else to focus on besides worrying about yourself.
Start with an illustration or powerful story.
Start with a story that illustrates the problem you’ll be talking about in your speech. This gives the audience a concrete example of how bad it can get and how difficult it is to solve.
They will start to care more because they can see how much people suffer because of this problem.
If you want to introduce an abstract idea, then start with a story that explains what this idea means. If you want to explain why your topic is important, tell a story about someone who suffered because they ignored the topic.
If your speech is about solutions, then tell stories of those who were able to solve the problem and show how they did it.
Get people curious and create some suspense by only giving them part of the solution for now; that way, they have to keep listening until you reveal all.
Begin with a startling statistic or factoid.
To begin your presentation with a statistic, you should:
- Make sure the statistic is relevant to the subject matter.
- Make sure it’s interesting.
- Provide sources for the statistic so that you appear credible.
Jump right into your topic or presentation.
One of the best ways to capture your audience’s attention is with a great opening.
The 5 minutes at the start of your presentation are the most important ones.
If you can get your audience interested, engaged, and excited during this time, you’ll have them hooked for the rest of your presentation.
You need to make sure that it’s relevant, short but not too short, and connected to your main points.
Make your audience smile within 30 seconds of beginning.
The way you start your presentation sets the tone for the rest of it. Your audience will know exactly what to expect within 30 seconds of hearing you speak, so it’s crucial to make a good impression.
Most people think that looking professional and being serious is the best way to go about giving presentations, but actually injecting a little fun and humor into your speech is one of the best ways to get your audience on your side. You can do this in a couple of different ways:
- Tell a funny story from your personal life that’s relevant to the topic you’re presenting on. It can be about yourself or someone else (just don’t embarrass anyone too much), but make sure it has a point and also relates back to what you want people to learn from your presentation.
- Show an amusing picture or video clip that fits with the subject matter at hand and ties in with what you want people to take away from your talk. If possible, incorporate props into this (for example, if you’re talking about how important organization is when planning something, pull out that shoebox full of random receipts and business cards you keep meaning to sort through). It will start off with some laughs while illustrating why what you have to say is important.
Think out loud with the audience.
Presenting information is not simply about reading slides out aloud. It’s about engaging and interacting with the audience.
The best way to do this is to think out loud while presenting.
This means talking your way through what you are thinking as you explain something or make a point, rather than just reading it on the screen, with no explanation of how you got there.
The idea behind thinking out loud is that it makes your presentation more authentic; the audience feels like they are being included in your thought process, which will help them be receptive to what you’re saying.
It also helps you to build a connection with the audience by making them feel like part of your story.
Use your body language to connect with the audience.
- Use your hands to emphasize points.
- Take up space by standing with legs apart and arms away from the body.
- Maintain eye contact with your audience; move your head and eyes around the room.
- Keep still, and avoid fidgeting.
- Smile and use facial expressions to connect with the audience (but don’t overdo it).
Get the audience involved with a handout or prop (or ask them to get out of their chairs).
In order to be a successful public speaker, you’ve got to do more than deliver a speech. You need to get your audience involved!
The easiest way of doing this is by asking them to move around or bring in something they can touch and feel.
Need ideas? Try asking your audience members to bring old photos or mini-posters for an activity, or try using an object as a prop (for example, if you’re giving a talk about how to make the perfect cup of tea, bring a teabag with you and have people follow along).
If it doesn’t fit the theme of your presentation, ask people to get up from their seats and stretch their legs (or even do some jumping jacks) so that they don’t tune out halfway through your talk.
End on a powerful note that reminds people about you and your presentation for days, weeks, and months afterward.
The way you end your presentation can make or break the entire speech.
How do you want your audience to remember you?
The key to a powerful ending is to:
- raise the volume of your voice;
- use humor if appropriate;
- use a prop effectively;
- use a quote to drive home your point;
- ask a question and process it with the audience;
- tell an engaging story about yourself, about someone else or about an event that relates back to what you’re presenting;
- use a metaphor, such as comparing yourself or others in the situation with characters from Shakespeare’s plays (for example, leaders can exhibit traits of Hamlet);
- use a call to action and tell people exactly how they can help themselves, their families and other people in their communities; * ask for feedback if appropriate and be willing to answer questions if needed: Be sure you know where the nearest exits are so that just in case there is an emergency, everyone can get out quickly. If need be, keep water on hand so that you can keep speaking during an emergency. * Practice again, practice some more and then go out and present!
Your content is more likely to be remembered if you use one of these tricks to connect with your audience early
Your audience will likely be more engaged if you spend a few minutes at the beginning of your talk using one of the following strategies to help them connect with you.
- Ask questions: What do people want? It’s easy: They want to feel important, valued, respected and included. Asking questions at the start of your presentation allows you to show that you are interested in your audience, which helps draw them into your talk.
- Ask for input: You can also try asking for an example or a story from someone in the audience about a time when they experienced what you are discussing. This type of interaction helps people feel important and like their voice is heard—which definitely increases their level of engagement!
- Use humor: Telling jokes or funny stories is another great way to connect with your audience early on by showing them that you’re approachable and letting them know what kind of style they can expect during your talk (i.e., serious vs lighthearted).
- Be authentic: Perhaps most importantly, make sure that whatever strategy you use here feels authentic to who you are and how you would normally communicate with others outside the workplace!
Whether you are giving an internal presentation at work or a talk as part of your college class, you have a lot to gain by improving your public speaking.
Presentation design goes a long way towards helping people focus on you and your message, so take the time to learn some techniques that make that easier.
I would recommend practicing them before you get in front of an audience. That way you won’t be distracted by having to think about what the right move is. You can just focus on making a great presentation.