Five tips for presentation success

Number 5 for blogYou have an important presentation to give and you’re ready to captivate your audience.  But, wait a minute!  Before you start, there are a number of common traps that can be avoided with a little advance work.

Here are some tips to help you take control and put your audience at ease.  They apply whether you’re giving an informal  presentation to a small group, or delivering a more formal address to a large audience.

  1. Do a Test Run

    This may seem like a no-brainer, but how many times have you seen a speaker get up to show their slides, Power Point presentation, or video, and the equipment malfunctioned?  By doing an initial run-through with the equipment – especially testing microphone levels — you can easily save yourself from those embarrassing moments.

  2. Scope out the Room

    Just as people, rooms have their own personality. Each room has its own acoustics and its own particular lighting.  Before your audience arrives, get to know the room.  Does the lighting level need adjusting?  Do a sound check to be certain you can be heard at the back of the room, and get up on the podium to see what it will feel like.  Then walk around the perimeters of the room to develop a “physical” memory of the room for yourself.  It will add to your comfort level.

  3. Pace Yourself

    Don’t be a “Motor Mouth.”  Your audience needs time to digest material.  Add interest to your presentation by deciding in advance where you would like to add dramatic pauses, where you would like to slow down, and where you feel it’s important to speed up. Remember, variety is the spice of life!

  4. Bring your Personality With You

    Too often speakers leave their real personality behind in an attempt to sound authoritative on the podium or chairing a meeting.  Try to be natural and incorporate your personality into your presentation.  That’s what makes you unique and adds interest to your material.

  5. Make Life Easy on Yourself

    Don’t fall for the misconception that you have to memorize your presentation.  While you should be familiar with your presentation so that you are not glued to the script, a script serves as your map and guidepost.  Some of the finest speakers around deliver from scripts.  And remember: There is a difference between reading and delivering!

 

What the Academy Awards can teach us

Academy Awards Oscar statueThis year’s Academy Awards was about glamour, glitz, political statements, and the craft of movie making.  But beyond that, it was a great opportunity to see a multitude of speaking styles in action.

Perhaps one of  the best speeches of the night was Leonardo Di Caprio’s acceptance as best actor.  He gave an impassioned, articulate speech that ranged from thanking his screen collaborators to bridging into the case for global warming when he noted that the film, “Revenant” had to go far south on location to find snow.

Other notable presenters included Eddie Redmayne, whose timing and delivery were impeccable.  And then there was Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke with more energy and passion than I’ve ever seen him deliver, when he talked about sexual abuse.  Louis Gossett Jr. presented a dignified introduction to the “In Memoriam” tribute, while Louis C.K. delivered a wry standup routine (albeit with a little too much hand movement) praising producers of short documentaries.

Some, such as Patricia Arquette, recited in an uninterested-sounding, dull monotone. while others rushed through their presentation, nervously rattling off names of people they wanted to thank.

Reading from a teleprompter, as the presenters did, provides challenges.  They get one run-through rehearsal, and that’s it.

So, what tips can we apply from the Academy Awards when we deliver a presentation?

  •  Whether delivering your presentation from a teleprompter, a script, or notes, always be sure the font size is large enough and legible. You don’t want to squint, trip over your words, or look like you’re reading.
  • Ladies, if you’re wearing new shoes or high heels for any presentation, rehearse in them. Walk in front of a mirror, and notice your stance.  And – this goes for men and women – if you’re wearing a new outfit that you’re not used to, do a dry run-through.  Practice walking at home, look in the mirror and notice how you look.  You want to get used to the way you feel.
  • If using a script, teleprompter, or  notes that you or someone else have written, always familiarize yourself with the text in advance. Practice makes perfect.  When you’re nervous you’re more apt to flub lines, especially if you haven’t studied them.
  • No matter what you’re saying or reading to an audience, find the meaning, and put the passion in it.

You can find many more examples of good – and not so good presentations and acceptances – from the Oscars online.  Use them as a learning tool for your next presentation.  And you, too, may shine like a star!

Ten Speaker Tips From the Opera Stage

Speaking Advice from a famous Artist’s Manager: Ken Benson

Ken Benson

Ken Benson recently presented a master class to opera students at Hunter College.  Mr. Benson is a respected expert in the opera world and a long-time artistic manger.  Mr. Benson was with Columbia Artists Management for 25 years and serves as the in-house consultant to Masters’ students of Vocal Arts at the famed Juilliard School of Music.  Some of the advice he gave young singers applies equally well to speakers.

1)      Don’t be perfect, be expressive.

2)      Know your special qualities and strengths.

3)      Know when something fits you personality-wise.

4)      The first phrase (or sentence) is the most important.

5)      It’s not the quantity (or how long your presentation is), but the quality.

6)      It’s all about how you use words.

7)      Make the speech or presentation your own.

8)      Be genuine and authentic.

9)      Take the audience with you, and create a transformative experience.

10)   Be prepared.

Originally posted August 1, 2014.

Read the new edition of The Public Speaking Wire!

We are excited to announce that the newest edition of our newsletter, The Public Speaking Wire, is out! Read it for useful tips on public speaking for job hunters and new business seekers, as well as tips for saving your voice on cold days and ways to relax tense jaw muscles.

We hope you enjoy it, and look forward to your feedback!

Guest Post: Eight top tips to turn you into an impressive public speaker

View of the terraces and house at Bowood in Wiltshire.
View of the terraces and house at Bowood in Wiltshire.
This post, supplied by Bowood Resort in the U.K.,  has a number of useful hints.  However, I don’t agree with their point about not apologizing.  Depending on the audience and situation, it may be okay to let them know you’re nervous, and it may even elicit sympathy.  After all, it’s human to be nervous. 

It’s one of the most common human fears; it has been unanimously voted as one of the biggest fears of all time, up there with flying. But public speaking doesn’t need to be scary.

Here are some tips from Gill Cooper, Hospitality Manager for Bowood Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort, UK. Bowood Estate has been hosting important meetings with some of the nation’s foremost thinkers, opinion leaders and innovators for hundreds of years, in some of the best meeting rooms Swindon and the surrounding countryside has to offer.

  1. Know your material – It sounds silly, but make sure you know what you are talking about. No one likes a liar or a bluffer so ensure all the material you are talking about is true and factually correct. Obviously, a little exaggeration makes a good story but make sure you won’t be found out if you tell a little white lie. Read up on all of your material and make sure you know every fact and figure inside out. After all, knowledge is power.
  2. Practise makes perfect – It goes without saying that practise makes perfect. The more you practise your speech or presentation, the more comfortable you will be with it and the more confident you will feel delivering it.
  3. Get acquainted with the room – Try to arrive at the venue earlier than everyone else, allowing you time to familiarise yourself with the space. Work out where people will be seated; will they be able to hear you from your position? Try and work out the acoustics by talking loudly from different points of the room. This will help you to understand how your audience will hear you.
  4. Chat to the audience – If you arrive at the venue early, try to chat to your audience before your speech when they are milling around. Ask them why they have come to attend the event and what they hope to get out of it. This will help you understand what your audience wants to take away from your speech/presentation.
  5. Relax – Easier said than done, but try and relax. Public speaking is not a life or death situation and should be enjoyed. Remembered, people have come to see you.
  6. Speak slowly – No one wants to listen to someone talking at machine gun fire speed. Slow down. You may feel like you are talking ridiculously slowly, but it will reach your audience at perfect speed.
  7. Don’t apologise – Don’t start your presentation/speech by announcing how nervous or frightened you are. This will make the audience feel uncomfortable and they will then expect a nervous performance from you.
  8. Try and enjoy it – Public speaking isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it gets easier with practice. Try and enjoy your experience, remember, the audience are there to see you for a reason!

Personalize Your Presentations

How do you spice up a presentation? Add a personal experience, anecdote, observation or a quote that appeals to you. Then apply it to the situation at hand. This will help capture your audience’s attention and help them identify with you.

Some examples:

  • “Fishing is the biggest participant sport in the world.” So, today I would like your participation as we go fishing for-….
  • “If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?”- Vince Lombardi. Today we would like to tell you why we should win your business.
  • The much loved film, March of the Penguins: “What can we learn from penguins? The importance of a group and working together. The film depicted how penguins huddle in a group, working together to protect themselves from the elements, and promoting the greater good. Like the penguins, teamwork helps promote the greater good.”
  • Studs Terkel said, “Unless there is memory of the past, there is no present.” I’d like to start off with a little history…

Think about anecdotes in your everyday life that you could use in your own speaking. What anecdotes have worked for you?

Preparing a Power Point Presentation

Powerpoint cover slide for one of our  courses
Powerpoint cover slide for one of our courses

As we all know, there is nothing more dull than a poor Power Point presentation. So, here are some hints on how to liven up your presentation.

First, ask yourself  about the audience.  Here are some questions I posed to myself for a client presentation in front of an audience of about 100 people:

What do I know about the audience?

  • Why is the audience there? This audience was participating in an annual meeting, so some  members were more vested in what I had to report than others.
  • What is your purpose? Mine was to demonstrate the value of my public relations program.
  • Are you part of a larger program or the main attraction? My presentation  was part of an overall meeting with other presenters preceding and following mine.

Given the above, I knew that I had to make my presentation engaging as well as informative.

My solution:

  • Grab audience attention by starting with a video clip or visual. The combination audio/visual speaks action.
  • Build suspense. Rather than start at the beginning of the report , I used an excerpt and said, “We’ll tell you more about it later.” This creates a sense of anticipation
  • Spice up the slides with visuals and colorful charts. There were a lot of statistics to report. To add interest, I used visuals and colorful charts.
  • Minimize slide content. To keep the pace moving, limit the text on each page to no more than three major points, avoiding long explanations.

Originally posted August 10, 2010.