As an entrepreneur, public speaking is a skill you can hardly ignore if you want to develop your business. Networking, financing pitches, sales presentations and conferences all require some form of public speaking. But for many of us, presenting can be nerve-wracking, which comes to no surprise, since studies consistently show public speaking as one of the most common human fears.
But with the right preparation, public speaking doesn’t have to be such a daunting experience! On the contrary, showing your expertise and engaging your audience can be an exciting experience, especially if you are just starting out in bringing a product or service to the market.
Here are three ways to take your public speaking skills to the next level, genuinely connecting with your audience and getting your point across without going over your allotted timle!
Although having full notes with you may feel reassuring while presenting (after all, what if you forget what you want to speak about next!), you will also be more likely to check and read from them if you do. This can give away the impression you don’t know your stuff, and prevents you from making eye contact with your audience. Both of these doesn’t make for a very engaging pitch!
This isn’t to say you can’t have a few point form notes with you to make sure you touch on the key points of your presentation. But to avoid relying on your notes, or better yet, leaving them on the side of the stage, there’s only one thing to do: practice, practice, practice! After all, there’s a reason why “Practice makes perfect” remains an oldie but a goodie.
Knowing your material inside and out will make you more comfortable and ease your nerves. After delivering your speech to a friend, a significant other or a bunch of teddy bears, the whole experience will be less intimidating. Practice also significantly improves your delivery. The more you know your stuff, the more you’ll be able to make eye contact with your audience and make sure you touch on all your key points before the buzzer. It also makes it easier for you to improvise and go off-script if needed, throwing in a story, a joke, or making adjustments depending on the time you have left. The best speakers out there may make it look like they are improvising, but the ability to do so confidently is actually a matter of practice.
Depending on who you will be speaking to, you will need to adapt your presentation accordingly. This goes both for tone and communication style to the actual content included in your presentation.
When it comes to communication style, be careful when choosing your words. If the audience probably won’t understand the technical lingo from your particular field, you’ll quickly lose their attention. Developing your ability to vulgarize your offer is crucial to keeping your audience engaged. Buzzwords, such as “thinking outside the box”, “disrupt the market” or “thought leader”, should be avoided as much as possible, as they are overused and don’t bring anything of value to your presentation. If your product actually disrupt the market, explain how it does so instead of relying of easy sentence we’ve all heard 1,000 times by now. Besides, the people you are presenting to will most likely have a pretty strong BS detector, and nothing is worse than having people ask “so, what is it you DO exactly?” after your presentation.
Adjusting your content to your audience is also an important step to engage your audience. For example, you’ll need to dig deeper into numbers, like revenue and growth, with potential funders. Potential clients will mostly want one question answered: What will your product or service do for me? That is the question you’ll have to focus your presentation on.
If you aren’t sure who will be attending the event you are presenting at, check-in with the coordinators beforehand so you know who to expect, and then tailor your presentation accordingly.
Body language is shown in studies to be more important to your message than the words you speak. Have you ever listened to a presentation where the speaker keeps doing the same movement again and again, like tucking their hair behind their ear or shifting their weight from foot to foot? Did you end up focusing on that instead of what the speaker was talking about? Distracting, isn’t it?
We all have verbal and body tics when we are nervous. Knowing what ours are important in controlling them and looking more confident on stage. Do you play with your hair? Tie it up in an updo. Don’t know what to do with your hands or you keep putting them in your pockets? Hold a pen during your presentation, which will keep it occupied and will allow you to use it to point at your presentation. Do you shift from foot to foot? Walk a bit on stage instead.
Again, practice will play a key role in seeing what you do when you are nervous and working on correcting those behaviours. Recording yourself or presenting in front of someone you know can help you figure out what you need to improve upon. Bad posture, crossing your arms or fidgeting can send the message you aren’t confident in what you are saying. Lastly, don’t forget to smile and let your personality shine!
Written by: Véronic Tremblay, Bilingual Marketing Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada