Guest post by Daniel Etter
As a manager or leader in your field, you can almost guarantee that at some point in your career, you will need to perform a presentation, speak to a group or even address a large audience. As your sphere of influence, responsibility and reputation expands, this scenario becomes more and more likely.
While some managers are naturally gifted at speaking, others have to work really hard at it.
Delivery of a speech is instrumental in getting the point across to an audience who may or may not be receptive to what you have to say. Sweaty palms, knocking knees and lack of eye contact are all common symptoms of a speaker plagued by stage fright. To avoid stage fright and audience disconnect, here are seven habits of highly successful speakers that you should follow:
1. Always have a clear goal
You cannot make your point if you don’t know where you’re going in your presentation. Establish your goal and visualise the response you want from your audience. When you have devised a path of how to reach your goal, you’ll be on the road to delivering an effective presentation. If you can summarise your goal into one declarative sentence, you’re one step closer to an effective presentation. Try it and see how it works for you.
2. Prepare early and practice
Once your speaking date is set, you need to start preparing. Plan your PowerPoint presentation by using storyboards and notes. When you practice your speech and brainstorm to establish your topic, you’ll have a better delivery and response from your audience. Keep in mind that speech writing is an iterative process. So, it’s best to start early and practice often. Familiarity can help you cover numerous nervous moments.
3. Incorporate stories to engage the audience
You can relate to your audience more effectively when you incorporate relatable stories. The more realistic the stories are, the more you’re likely to connect with your audience. This helps the speaker to remember the information better too. If your presentation is boring, you’ll lose your audience. Some of the best stories come from ordinary occurrences. Think of your daily interactions with people and determine if there are any anecdotes you can incorporate to convey your message more effectively.
4. Get your audience involved
Ask your audience members questions that make them think. Get them involved and remember to use stories to relate to experiences in their lives. To help your audience better connect, consider different ways to encourage class participation. An engaged audience means that, even if you fumble, your presentation will be effective as the audience will laugh along with you until you recover – if you deliver it effectively. Sometimes, it’s not about what you say, but how you say it. Laughter is a great way to diffuse a “not-so-stellar” moment.
5. Be early
It’s important to show up early for your speech. This will allow yourself adequate time to prepare, set up and have a quick read through your notes so everything is fresh in your mind. If you’re late and unprepared, you’ll lose your audience. By the same token, do not go over the time limit. People may have planned other engagements around your presentation. No matter how good it is, if you go over the time limit, the audience will tune out and your message will not be absorbed. When you lose your audience, you’re likely not to be effective. Don’t forget to incorporate questions and answers into your time limit. If you remain respectful of other people’s time, you’re likely to be invited back again.
6. Make sure your equipment is working properly
Show up early and ensure that your equipment is working as it should. Making sure your equipment works as well as having a “plan B,” means you’re prepared no matter what happens. Inevitably, technology will malfunction even during the most prepared speaker’s speech. Be ready for all different types of scenarios. If you are, your confidence levels will remain high and so will audience confidence in your ability. In addition to checking the equipment, you should ensure that the meeting rooms are favourable in terms of acoustics.
7. Check the vibe of the audience and practice again
By showing up early, you’ll be able to test the mood of the audience. Are they tired, chatty, happy, or have low energy? Meet some of the audience members to engage them on a deeper level and also to help you feel more comfortable. Most people neglect this important step, but it’s highly effective. If you use the information to your advantage, you’re more likely to deliver a captivating speech.
Follow the seven habits of highly effective speakers
Giving a speech sounds easy until you stand in a room full of strange people and your mind draws a blank. Even the most prepared person can draw a blank if they’re not prepared for the worse that could happen. If you follow these steps, you’ll cover the problem areas and remove some of the hurdles that may lie in your way of giving an effective presentation. Some of the most effective speakers in history have incorporated these techniques and have impressed the masses.