Practice Your Important Presentations
Good presentations don’t happen by accident. They happen because the speaker is prepared to give an effective presentation and is confident about communicating the message effectively. One important step to solid presentations is to practice and perfect your presentation well in advance of the event. Rehearse alone and then in front of some trusted colleagues, so they can give you candid, useful feedback. Videotape yourself and make sure to review your verbal and nonverbal behaviors. You might just be surprised by what you see and learn, but through this disciplined approach, you will gain the skills and confidence for delivering a knock-your-socks-off show.
Don’t let great speakers fool you! While some people have a knack for delivering on cue or impromptu, most presenters (including those impressive Ted Talkers) come across as brave and flawless because they’ve rehearsed and worked on their performance. Even at MAP, part of our training includes videotaping consultants, so they can polish this critical communication skill. With many of us regularly making presentations in front of others, we’ve learned you’ve got to be comfortable, compelling and clear about the purpose. Notably, you’ve got to: Connect with your audience, Commit to the goals, and Command the room.
Connect. This is about establishing the relationship and building trust. Immediately set the stage for what you want to present, the goals you want to achieve, and why it’s important. Consider building interactivity and comfort, asking a couple of questions of specific audience members, sharing a personal (yet relative) story, or inserting some upfront humor. Also generate rapport proactively by introducing yourself one-on-one to a few folks in the audience/room before you’re slated to start speaking. Ask them questions, find some common ground if you can, and get people relaxed, making them more receptive to you. (Hint: If you’ve got some jitters, establishing this familiarity with some audience members will put you more at ease, too!)
Commit. Do you truly believe what you’re talking about? If you don’t, you’ll likely struggle with being perceived as an authentic speaker. Committing to your ideas, supporting them with good reasoning/evidence, and carefully choosing language that supports what you believe and to the degree to which you believe it are all essential to convincing people to trust you and whatever you’re saying.
Command. From the moment you walk in the room, take to the stage, and even meet/greet folks after the presentation, your words and body must demonstrate that you’re in control, connected and caring about why you’re there. This is achieved through excellent verbal and nonverbal skills, everything from your voice pitch, pace and tone to your eye contact, gestures, stance, posture, body positioning, body habits, and more. This is about enhancing every aspect of you that’s auditory and visual. And don’t forget how your sense of command is reflected in what you wear. A good rule of thumb is to inquire about the audience’s expected dress code, then outfit yourself one notch above it, e.g., if it’s business casual, wear a sport coat.
What speaker habits annoy you — and should be avoided?