7 public speaking tips to improve your next presentation
We’ve previously discussed ways to start running better meetings, focusing primarily on logistics (test your tech, check your other devices at the door). Celine Roque showcased bike meetings and silent meetings and other ways that businesses are avoiding the deplorable and denounced meetings of yesteryear. Robert Hoekman, Jr. then encouraged us to identify three key roles to make meetings more efficient: the decision maker, the devil’s advocate, and the chorus.
Eventually, though, a meeting will simply boil down your ability to rock the mic. Anyone can bring the house down with an announcement that your company is moving to unlimited vacation days, but can you captivate the audience with your budgetary review? Here are a few tips from a one-time silver medalist at a state public speaking competition in Wisconsin (I was robbed).
Don’t read your slides verbatim.
You know who wants you to read every word on the screen even though they’re looking at the same screen? My four-year-old. And none of your colleagues. We polled them all, and none of them want that.
Breathe. Keep breathing. Don’t lose your nerve.
That sounds better when Thom Yorke sings it, but the point stands. I’m a little rusty in front of rooms and tend to push a little too fast; when you try to barrel forward because you’re racing against the clock or just itching to get out of the spotlight, your presentation starts sounding a little choppy and panicked. Also, if you’re motoring ahead too quickly, you’ll tend to get sloppy with enunciation and thus give your audience another reason to zone out while you deliver your carefully-crafted speech on 2016 data security policies.
Test your tech.
Make sure the projector and microphone work. Make sure you remember your iMeet password. This is especially important for rookie presenters, but even the grizzled veterans shouldn’t take it for granted; you don’t want to waste precious minutes fumbling when you have numerous colleagues anxiously standing by.
At some point in your presentation, you’re going to take a stab at making a joke, or displaying a silly meme on a slide. You know you want to, and that’s just fine. Resist the urge to prove your esoteric taste; the only thing more awkward than a comedian explaining a joke is a business colleague explaining a joke. “And the picture there… of course… is Gena Rowlands from the Cassavetes classic A Woman Under the Influence. She looks like she’s about HAD IT with underdeveloped go-to-market strategies, am I right? Uhh. Next slide?”
I believe it was Winston Churchill who once said, “Dude, we can tell that you spent 20 seconds Googling ‘leadership quotes.’ Try harder.” Just name-checking Einstein and Peter Drucker or regurgitating the same Business 101 quotes isn’t going to automatically bestow gravitas upon your deck.
Give people a sense of purpose.
Be clear on the takeaways, whether you’re in a departmental meeting or you’re addressing a coliseum full of adoring fans or subjects. What can they take action on? What do they know now that they didn’t know 30 minutes ago?
Listen to / watch yourself.
If you’re frequently leading presentations, even with a small team, I’d recommend that you record yourself and, painful though it is to hear our own stupid voices and see our own stupid faces on video, sit down for a self-critique sometime. It’s amazing to hear/see the habits that may slip under the radar otherwise.