“Picture the audience naked,” “Just be yourself,” and “Be prepared,” is common public speaking advice you’ve probably heard before. It’s certainly not bad advice, but it’s also advice that you’re probably already well aware of. When you want to elevate yourself to the next level of public speaking excellency, you need to take next-level advice. You’ve likely never learned the following tips and techniques in school, but you can bet that if you apply them, you’ll be better than you’ve ever been.
Repurpose Fear Into Excitement
If you feel fearful before presenting, that’s totally normal—even the best presenters in the world feel some fear before they step on stage. But what you do with that fear is what matters most. From a racing heart to a burst of energy, the symptoms of fear feel a whole lot like excitement, which is why author and TED Talk presenter, Simon Sinek, tells himself: “You’re not nervous, you’re excited.” In fact, the simple act of repeatedly telling yourself that it’s excitement you’re feeling rather than fear can be enough to squash that pesky fear entirely.
Use Your Body to Make a Good First Impression
Sure, what you say is very important, but the way you look saying it is just as critical. According to psychological research explored by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, we as humans have a tendency to draw conclusions about what someone’s like in just one second or less. That said, if you step on stage with hunched shoulders and eyes glued to your notes, snap judgments from your audience are going to peg you as much less of a leader than if you walked out making eye contact with your head held high.
Say Your Main Message in One Sentence
Chances are, if you’re presenting on a topic, you probably know quite a bit about it. But if you attempt to share every single thing you know, that’s a fast track to a confusing and convoluted presentation. Instead, hone in one primary message and use the rest of your talk to support that message. A great way to ensure you’re not trying to say too much is to summarize your presentation in one sentence. If you can’t do that, then you’re likely trying to present about too many things.
Focus on the Most Engaged Audience Members
No matter how skilled of a presenter you are, you’re going to notice at least a few people in the audience that aren’t super engaged. It’s all too easy to focus on them, which causes you to lose the enthusiasm you need to engage the rest of the audience. Therefore, early on in your presentation, look for a select few people who seem to be actively engaged from the start and keep your focus on them. Not only will this prevent you from losing your steam, but it’ll help you build enthusiasm and confidence as you move through your talk.
Treat Your Talk as a Gift
A lot of public speakers make the mistake of focusing too much on themselves and not enough on the audience. But the fact of the matter is, your presentation isn’t about you; it’s about your audience and all you can give them with your expertise. Therefore, rather than dedicate your preparation to all that you want to say, focus on the value you’re providing to your audience. If you take time to put yourself in an audience member’s shoes and figure out what is likely to be the most applicable and valuable information to their lives, your presentation will be much better received.
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