Have a presentation to give? A speech to deliver? It's not easy for most of us to put ourselves up there. And it may never be easy, no matter how many times we are called upon to do it. But it's doable. It's within reach.
Our Top Ten Tips to put it there:
Knowing names and titles is not enough. Delve deeper to find out more about the individuals or groups expected to attend—likes, dislikes, affiliations, biases, level of knowledge and expertise. Use the resulting audience profile to shape both what you will say and how you will say it.
2. KNOW THE AUDIENCE'S PURPOSE AND YOUR OWN
Your audience is gathering for a reason. What is it? Within their purpose, what are the objectives they seek to attain by attending? Use those answers to understand what you want to accomplish.
Ask yourself what you want to happen as a consequence of your speech or presentation. What do you want the audience to feel, think, and do?
Once you're aware of audience characteristics, audience purpose, and your own purpose and objectives, you're ready to forge ahead.
Here, we're using the term "argument" in a classical way, meaning to present a set of reasons and facts designed to persuade others to a particular point of view. Everything you include in your argument must be squarely focused on achieving your objectives. If it's not driving toward your objectives, it's superfluous.
5. ENLIGHTEN, DON'T INFORM
When you inform, you give information. When you enlighten, you explain what information means, why listeners should care, what they should do about it. When you enlighten, you make it easier for audience members to understand why it is in their interest to support your point of view.
In an ideal world, every presentation would include a story. The use of story in the body of a presentation or in its opening and closing can be powerful. People like stories. Stories bring ideas to life; stories paint memorable pictures for your listeners. As you build your presentation, use one to make your key points more tangible.
Many people begin preparing presentations in PowerPoint. That's a mistake. In fact, undertake slide preparation only after you've finished all of the above. Then test their effectiveness as you rehearse.
8. REHEARSE, REHEARSE, REHEARSE
The benefits of rehearsal can't be overstated. Some presenters believe that rehearsing means simply reviewing their material. Others think that rehearsal will make presentations stale. Not true. Done properly, rehearsal helps you better internalize your material; practice keeps it fresh and alive.
9. DELIVER WITH SKILL AND PASSION
The best-crafted message poorly delivered will fail. Confidence and credibility are established by how you present yourself, and that process begins the very second your audience sets eyes on you. Body language talks and talks very loudly, as do facial expressions and vocal quality. So do the phrases you use and the images you create. That's a lot to master, isn't it? See #8 above: Rehearse.
Some presentations fall to pieces when it comes to Q&A. But yours needn't. Prepare for Q&A by anticipating questions and preparing responses to them. Learn how to maintain control of each session, especially if things get rude or hostile. How? See #8 above: Rehearse.
Use these ten tips to build your skill and expertise, to extend your reach, to make every hard-won success just a little sweeter.