This comment was from a woman I had coached on presentation skills. She had been nervous about speaking during a fund-raising luncheon for her favorite charity, but felt “on top of the world” after giving the presentation.
She was experiencing one of the positive consequences of giving an effective speech – her confidence level increased considerably, and she felt good about herself.
This woman was an accomplished professional and needed only a few suggestions to fine-tune her skills. But anyone can benefit from some of the tips that I gave her. Why not try them out before your next presentation? You may be surprised at how good you feel about yourself as a result.
1. Practice out loud. You want to hear how your presentation sounds. Saying it in your head isn’t good enough. Is it structured logically? Are you using transitions between points? Are the stories complete? Does the presentation make sense? Saying it aloud, and hearing the speech as your audience will hear it, helps to clarify any areas that need work.
2. Mingle before the presentation. When you can, go up to people, shake hands, introduce yourself, and welcome individuals to the presentation. This rapport-building helps people connect with you, and allows you to feel more comfortable with them once you are in front of the group.
3. Ask yourself: Does the audience know I am nervous? If you are not verbally or nonverbally conveying your nervousness to the audience, the people you are addressing will not know. And if the audience doesn’t know you’re nervous, why waste your energy being nervous? Interesting concept… and it has helped a lot of people overcome their nervousness.
4. Look at people. When you make eye contact with members of your audience, you appear confident and in control of the presentation and your audience. Presenters get nervous and tend to avoid looking at the people they are addressing. Make sure you look at everyone. People have a tendency to look only at the people who smile at them (and we do love these people!), but you don’t want to miss connecting with anyone.
5. Manage the questions. In the beginning of your talk, let people know when you will be taking questions. You can often direct people to ask questions on a specific topic by saying, “What questions do you have about X?” Repeat each question before you answer it. This gives you a few seconds to compose your thoughts before you speak. You can also rephrase the question to eliminate any negativity in it.
6. Take the applause. I am sure you have seen speakers who have almost run off the stage at the conclusion of a presentation, or they may say something like, “Whew, glad that is over!” Do not do this. You should acknowledge the applause, then walk off the stage or go back to your seat with your head held high.
Additional suggestions on presentation skills can be found in my book, The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.
Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on presentation skills and communication. For more information contact Joyce Hoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 856.751.6141.