Public Speaking Like a Pro
What to Say—and How to Say It
By referring to a simple outline instead of memorizing a speech word for word, you’ll be able to think of your speech as a story that you can relate to any audience. This will help prevent memory lapses during the presentation.
- Practice your presentation in the room where you’ll deliver it.
- Sleep and eat well before a presentation.
- Do stretching exercises before you speak.
- Stand with your weight on the balls of your feet and your feet at a 30-degree angle to help avoid swaying and rocking.
- Visualize yourself giving an outstanding speech.
- Tailor your presentation to your audience.
- Spend as much time researching your audience as you do researching your topic.
- Always use your presentation to answer the question, “so what?” In other words, why will the audience care about your topic?
- Give the audience a reason to listen within the first 60 seconds of your presentation.
- Set yourself up for failure by focusing on previous public speaking disasters.
- Don’t focus on yourself and how your topic benefits you, but on how it can benefit the audience.
Speaking with Confidence
- The introduction may be the most important part of your presentation. It’s your opportunity to gain the attention of the audience, create a rapport, and establish your credibility.
- It’s better to breathe than to pause with an “um” or other filler word. You’ll sound more professional, and the extra oxygen will refresh your mind and memory.
- To break the “um” habit, have your peers snap or clap anytime you use a filler term during practice. Knowing when you tend to use fillers is the first step in eliminating them.
- If you want to be perceived as being competent and powerful, avoid the following words or phrases in your presentations:
- The use of hedges, such as “I think,” “I might,” “kind of,” and “well.”
- Empty adjectives such as “humongous” or “gorgeous.”
- Apologies such as “I’m sorry” or “forgive me for asking.”
- Tag questions such as “Don’t you think?” or “Do you agree?” at the end of a statement.
- Indirect requests such as “Would you mind telling me?”
- Intensifiers such as “so,” “very,” or “really.”
- For a lasting impression, always end the question and answer session with a brief closing comment so you can ensure the last impression you leave is your voice and your perspective.
What Your PowerPoint Slides Say about You
You are unique.
Use a unique yet simple backdrop for your slides. The generic templates offered by Microsoft are not only overused, but could also be used by your competitors.
You are captivating.
Use a slide for the introduction, but switch to a blank screen when you begin talking so the attention is on you, the speaker.
You are organized.
Project a mini-agenda on each slide to show where we are in the presentation.
You are creative.
Use images and color in order to make a point rather than bullets or excessive words.
You are thorough.
Use handouts that include more information than you reference in your speech, but avoid text-heavy visuals.
You are attentive to your audience.
Use the PowerPoint slide as a tool, but not as a “note card on the wall.” If you project something complex on the screen, give the audience time to read it. If a strong point is being made, be sure that the timing, images, and words complement the point instead of overpowering it.