5 great tips for making memorable presentations
There are lots of different ways to get more business – advertising, networking, word of mouth, recommendations, mail shots to name but a few. Whatever works for you is the one to use, but at some point, you’re going to have to speak to people to tell them about what you do. Nobody knows your business as well as you do, or has invested as much time and money (as well as blood, sweat and tears) in it, so you are absolutely the best person to tell others about why you’re so great!
“You want me to stand up in front of an audience and speak? I can’t do that!”
Actually, yes you can! We have seen even the most terrified quickly grow into competent, confident and even brilliant public speakers, so we know you can too. The application of well tried and tested techniques, 5 of which are outlined below, will help, but at its heart public speaking is an art form and is best learned and improved by PRACTICE, preferably in a “live” but supportive setting. You have to experience it, and when you do it well it is exhilarating!
Tip 1 – BE PREPARED
You’ve probably heard “the 5 Ps” –Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance, and preparation is vital if you are to make a successful presentation. Things you may want to consider are:
Audience – size, position in the company, do they know of you already, level of technical knowledge
Venue – size of the room, layout (e.g. everyone round a table or you at the front), equipment available (vital if you are using Powerpoint or other visual aids or demonstrating your product or service)
Timings – turn up before your time slot and never EVER go over the time you have been allowed
Presentation content – know your subject inside out!
Look great! – Present a professional image. Dress appropriately for the venue and audience
Tip 2 – STRUCTURE YOUR SPEECH
Giving your speech some sort of a structure will help your audience follow what you are saying and put the information you are giving them into a clearer context. A good tip is to follow the “News at Ten” approach:
- Tell them what you are going to tell them (INTRODUCTION)
- Tell them (MAIN BODY)
- Tell them what you’ve told them (SUMMARY)
Make your introduction grab your audience’s attention, but keep it short and sweet. Introduce yourself and your company and then briefly tell your audience what you are going to cover.
The main body of your presentation is the section where you put across the key messages you want your audience to hear. It’s really tempting to bombard the audience with too much information but
If you do that, your key messages may become confused and your audience becomes, quite frankly, bored! It is much better to identify just 3 key points you want to communicate and put them across well – this is known as “the power of three”.
The summary should again be short and to the point. Pick out the main thing you want the audience to remember most and really emphasise why they need you!
Tip 3 – PRESENT WITH PASSION!
When we are communicating with others, there are 3 elements that count – the words we use, our tone of voice and our body language. Research has shown that the words we use accounts for less than 10% of what we communicate, whilst the tone of voice may be responsible for about 30%. (See the next tip for the remaining 60%!)
Whatever the actual figure, it’s clear that your voice is a key tool in making an effective presentation! There are 3 main points to consider:
Volume – speak loudly enough so that the person furthest away from you can hear you clearly. Also, vary the volume – louder to put emphasis on a particular word or message, quieter to draw your audience in once you have built rapport.
Pace – when we are nervous, we tend to speak more quickly than normal. Make a conscious effort to speak at a slightly slower than normal pace but plan to inject changes in pace too – to keep your presentation interesting. Silence (stopping for a few seconds) can be the most powerful pace change of all.
Pitch – varying the pitch of your voice, by which we mean speaking with a slightly higher or deeper voice than normal – will also add impact to what you are saying. When there is a change in pitch, people notice. So think about the important words, phrases, and sentences and modify your pitch to draw attention to them.
Tip 4 – BODY LANGUAGE SHOUTS LOUDEST!
Research shows that our body language makes up over half of the message we communicate, so it is very important that it supports and reinforces what we are saying. All of the physical gestures we make are subconsciously interpreted by others. This can work for or against us depending on the kind of body language we use.
You may be really nervous when you are speaking to a group, but they don’t know that unless you tell them! If you follow a few simple suggestions, your body language will present a confident image
- Stand tall! Whether you’re five feet one or six feet four don’t slouch! Stand up straight, have your feet a shoulder-width apart, have your shoulders back and keep your chin up.
- It’s OK to move! You don’t always have to be rooted to the spot with your arms held rigidly by your sides. If it feels right don’t be afraid to move a couple of paces to the side, or even nearer towards your audience.
- The key is to be natural and avoid anything which will distract the audience.
Tip 5 – PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
Like any skill, your public speaking will improve through repetition. If you are having an operation in a hospital, you’d want the surgeon to have practiced a bit, wouldn’t you? You’d want the pilot taking you on your holiday to have a few flying hours under his belt, too, I imagine!
Look for opportunities where you can practice speaking to a group. If you are nervous, start with small groups or even individuals. Perhaps start with a “tame” audience – the team you work with or even your family. How about a business breakfast club?
If you haven important speech lined up – perhaps to a potential new customer – don’t leave it to chance on the day. Write your speech out longhand at first and read it out to yourself. Does it flow well? Is the language and terminology right? Is the timing OK? Have you followed the tips outlined in this article?
Even better still, practice to an audience and ask for feedback. Ask them how it sounded, what were the messages they thought you were trying to get across, did you seem confident?
A great way to improve your public speaking would be to join Nottingham Speakers’ Club. The club meets every other Thursday evening and everyone gets the chance to make a speech on a subject of their choice in a friendly, non-judgemental environment. Evaluations of speeches by other members find the positive aspects of the speeches and help speakers understand how and where they can improve.