Public speaking–the words alone are enough to make most people cringe. Presenting can be nerve-wracking, no matter how many times you do it. And the advice to “picture the audience in their underwear,” while well-intentioned, has never helped me. That’s why I’m going to give you some concrete tips to improve your public speaking and, hopefully, your confidence too.
Do NOT read word-for-word off notes or slides.
Notes: It’s fine to reference notes, but you should not have your entire presentation typed out in paper format to read. It’s disengaging for your audience and suggests you don’t know what you’re talking about since you can’t discuss the topic freely.
Slides: Reading word-for-word from PowerPoint slides is even worse than reading from notes. If your slides contain more than an outline, I guarantee they’re messy and displeasing to the eye. Also, why should your audience listen to you if they can simply read the slides themselves? Your slides should highlight important points and help your audience follow along, not catalog your entire presentation.
Grab attention at the beginning, leave an impression at the end.
You need to open with a question or statement that peaks your audience’s curiosity.
Give them a reason to actively listen to you for the next x number of minutes. Similarly, close with something that will leave an impression, something they’ll remember you and your presentation by. For example, in a presentation about defining a company’s voice, I closed by explaining: “You should be able to identify a company through its written voice as easily you can hear my own and say, ‘That’s Courtney Brodeur.’”
Practice in a mirror.
What you have to say is important, but so is your delivery. Practice your presentation enough times that delivering it becomes second nature. Watch your body language in the mirror. Practice making eye contact, not fidgeting, and standing tall.
Author: Courtney Brodeur