It’s no secret that presentation skills can make a world of difference when it comes to portraying professionalism and proper body mannerisms for public speaking. It is also no secret that public speaking is no easy task to master. In fact, according to the Washington Post in 2014, the fear of public speaking was ranked America’s biggest phobia at 25.3% among American adults.
So, if you fear public speaking and presenting in front of an audience, we are here to help. Below is a list of presentation techniques that every professional should master. Applying these skills will enhance your current presentation techniques, impress your audience, and send you well on your way to becoming an engaging and professional presenter.
Maintaining eye contact with your audience is the best way to make a personal connection while also making it clear that you know your material inside and out. Eye contact can change an audience’s perspective of you as a speaker if done properly, this means no wide eyed and spooky staring. When thinking about eye contact, think about everyone in the room, do not solely focus on one area, it will become obvious quite quickly. Rather, scan the room, pick a few select areas, and shift back and forth between those areas. Even if you aren’t looking directly into someone’s eyes, it will appear so.
If you still feel shy, try to find a familiar or friendly face in the audience— perhaps someone who is nodding or smiling at you. If you have to keep revisiting that one face for comfort every few minutes, that’s okay too!
Bottom line: don’t read your presentation, speak what you know.
When trying to deliver a message, one of the first mistakes is giving too much information too quickly. When presenting an educational speech, it is important to remember and incorporate a pause every now and then. The audience knows you are human, they expect you to take a breath or even a sip of water. Sometimes, an effective pause is a great way to collect your thoughts, especially if you forget where you were even going with that last sentence.
Bottom line: don’t fear the pause.
When presenting, not only are you delivering information or a message, but also providing your audience with entertainment. Spice things up with your personality, avoid being bland at all costs. Audiences are sympathetic, they know the pressure that is associated with public speaking. Remember, the audience wants you to do well, odds are, they want to laugh along with you. So, don’t be afraid to crack a natural joke or begin your presentation with a hilarious YouTube clip to set the mood.
Bottom line: do something that sets you apart and let’s the audience get to know personality.
This next one is a sure fire speech wrecker that a lot of presenters do not notice until reviewing a video or recording of their speech. In contradiction, this issue also happens to be something that audience members DO notice right away, the issue is known as: “tics.” These pesky little body movements or word add-ins can be described as: excessive flailing hand movements or the unnecessary “um or likes” in sentences. “Tics” are the things that we do in order to keep ourselves calm and comfortable during our presentations.
In reality, these movements and repetitive word usage are extremely distracting to an audience, The best solution here is to practice your speech in front of someone, have this person look for and record your tics. If you are aware of them, it is easier to prevent them. If you start to notice your “tic” occurring during a presentation, you can correct it before the audience catches on.
Bottom line: stay mindful.
Another way to combat the “tics” or repetitive body movements is to prepare and stick to planned body and hand positions. This is where a mirror will come in quite handy. While you practice, practice, practice your words, also practice how you are going to stand and where you will place your hands during specific parts of your presentation. This will make everything feel more natural.
One method would be to pick a hand placement for each different component of your presentation, as you transition the topic, transition your hands. Another method would be to choose three appropriate hand positions and rotate throughout your presentation. One of the most popular and non-distracting hand positions for presenting is holding your hands together in front of you, touching only at the fingertips. Something like this:
Bottom line: keep the body movements to a certain extent.
This last one may seem obvious, but don’t forget that both the beginning and the end of your presentation are the most important, remembered components. As with every document you’ve ever written, the beginning hook of a presentation is crucial for gaining your audience’s attention and even more challenging, keeping it.
Perhaps start your presentation with an engaging anecdote, or by asking the audience a question. Make them wonder about something or get them involved verbally, “raise your hand if you’ve ever,” always generates an audience response.
This also applies to your closing remarks. Whether you re-visit the highlight points from your speech or leave the audience pondering over a question, the last thing you say will be what the audience takes home with them.
Bottom line: make it count.
Mastering public speaking with these tips will help you to be a better speaker and to become a more effective leader. With the ability to express yourself in a clear and eloquent way, you will be more likely to get people to listen and act upon your suggestions. Public speaking tips can be applied beyond formal speeches: motivating your staff, leading a focus group, and sharing a new idea with a manager.
Good luck at applying all of these public speaking tips!