Present Like a Pro with my Public Speaking Hacks

On Steve's Mind: a Newsletter

Brand Harmony

People from my audiences sometimes share their public speaking challenges with me, asking me for advice. In the spirit of my Marketing Hacks article, here are some of my best public speaking hacks.

Public Speaking Hack #1: Focus on what you want the audience to think at the end

When designing a speech, presentation, workshop, or even a social toast, start your planning by imagining what you want the audience thinking at the end of your talk.

This morning, I led a workshop for Chauffeur Driven Magazine‘s Executive Retreat in New Orleans. When planning my session, I imagined what I wanted the audience members to be talking about at lunch. Starting with this idea in mind, I worked backwards to plan my session.

You can also use this method for a presentation to your board of directors. By imagining what you want them talking about once you finish your presentation, you will be able to focus your content on achieving that goal.

Public Speaking Hack #2: Think conversation, not presentation

Although you may be officially “giving a presentation,” you will be more effective if you always think about turning every presentation into a conversation.

Even with large audiences, I always encourage myself to think of the conversation I want to have with the audience, not about the presentation I want to deliver.  People are much more engaged when they participate in a conversation than when they hear a presentation.

Often this approach includes posing questions to the audience, and it can work even with large groups.  In February, I spoke at the national franchisee meeting of LINE-X, with 600 people in attendance. LINE-X and I agreed that we wanted an interactive experience, so I led a 2.5-hour conversation with this large group. Sure, not every person responded to my questions, but more than 75 people raised their hands and shared their thoughts during this time, which created a feeling of conversation for everyone involved.

Public Speaking Hack #3: Never be upstaged by your PowerPoint slides

You’re the main show. Your slides are only there to support you. Keep the focus on you. Here’s how:

  • Never dim the lights for the sake of your PowerPoint slides
  • Never stand behind the audience as they look at the screen
  • Never turn back to look at the screen (Instead, position your computer or a confidence monitor so you can see it as you face the audience)
  • Never have more words on a PowerPoint slide than you can say in one breath

Public Speaking Hack #4: Be conscious of your choreography

Where you stand and where you walk matter.  I once watched a colleague unconsciously trace a four-foot circle, about 30 times, during a presentation. I was dizzy, and the rest of the audience was distracted.

Be purposeful about your movements, and use them to emphasize points and draw attention to pivotal moments in your talk.

Public Speaking Hack #5: Choose your words wisely

If you can use fewer words, do it.

Public Speaking Hack #6: Make eye contact with audience members

We all know how powerful it is when a speaker makes direct eye contact with an audience member — it makes the audience member feel important and directly involved.

Eye contact also serves a valuable purpose for you, the presenter.  Directing complete sentences, or phrases within sentences, to individual audience members helps you manage the timing of your delivery.

Public Speaking Hack #7: Imagine you are making it easy for a film editor

It’s important to leave space between the ideas you share with your audience, so they have time to absorb the material. One trick I use is to imagine that I’m being filmed (even if I’m not) and that I want to make it easy for a video editor to select certain sentences or ideas. This encourages me to remember to leave a space before and after each idea. (I’ll admit, this is a hard one for me! It’s tempting to tie the end of one idea too closely to the beginning of the next idea.)

Public Speaking Hack #8: Don’t be afraid to end early

You never lose points for ending early, and you always lose points for ending late.

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