Seasoned presenters are engaging, interesting, and knowledgeable and they make the process of delivering a presentation look seamless. They are poised, professional, confident, and organized. Some of the greatest presenters of our time include Steve Jobs, Maya Angelou, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Tony Robbins. They all shared the special ability to hook an audience and leave them hanging on their every word. You might be thinking to yourself, “Of course they are good…they are professionals.” The truth is, however, that while there are a few lucky people who are natural-born speakers, the majority of us are not blessed with that innate skill. Public speaking is a skill that like any other skill, improves with practice. If you are looking to improve your public speaking skills, start by learning the secrets of some of the world’s business leaders and most experienced presenters. Here are a few valuable insights they have revealed.
Start with a clear message and purpose.
“If you can’t write your message in one sentence, you can’t say it in one hour.” These words were spoken by communication expert Dianna Booher. Simply put, you must know exactly what you want your audience to take away from your presentation before you begin planning what you are going to say. If you don’t know what’s most important for your audience to learn, they won’t know either. You must first decide on your purpose and message and then let this guide the rest of your presentation.
Have a story to tell.
If you think about the greatest presentation you have ever seen, chances are the speaker did not begin by reading from a slide. More than likely, they began with a story. Storytelling is among the oldest forms of communication and it’s a great way to connect with your audience. Stories are interesting, relatable, and engaging so they are a fantastic way to hook an audience right from the start.
Use PowerPoint and slideshows sparingly.
If you think about the greatest presentations ever given, you might notice that slideshows were absent in nearly all of them. That’s because the greatest speakers don’t rely on slideshows to get their message across. They use other forms of communication like their words, eye contact, and body language to convey their message. This doesn’t mean that you can never incorporate a PowerPoint. It simply means that you should not allow your PowerPoint to be the main communication tool for your presentation. YOU are the main communicator.
Keep it simple.
Simplicity is the key to ultimate sophistication. Keep your slides simple, use minimal words, and choose beautiful images. You don’t need to add flashy animations, distracting transitions, or complicated jargon. Rather, speak in a way that is easy for your audience to understand and remember.
Speak from the heart.
Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said and what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It’s only natural to want to give a perfect presentation and you might be tempted to memorize every word. You might rely heavily on notes or slides so you don’t forget a single thing. However, the best speakers would tell you to let that go. The audience will never know if you forgot a word because they are only hearing what you say. Instead of memorizing a presentation, practice speaking off the cuff and from the heart. Your audience will appreciate the authenticity of your presentation.
Use compelling imagery.
There’s a reason we have heard people say “A picture is worth 1,000 words.” That’s because the human brain can more easily recall and retain information that is presented as a picture. Not only do pictures make things more memorable, but our brains process visual images almost 60,000x faster than text.
Spend time rehearsing.
Delivering a carefully crafted presentation requires a commitment of time and energy. If you plan to give a presentation that informs, inspires, and entertains, you should spend plenty of time preparing and rehearsing. You need to spend at least as much time rehearsing your delivery as you did preparing your material. Remember, you can have the most fantastic material prepared but if you aren’t prepared to deliver it, it will be a failure.