To be used in combination with “Becoming an Influential and Persuasive Speaker: Part 1”, this article will offer thoughts to consider when you are standing in front of your audience to make a presentation. All the points from Part 1 are relevant here, although you may not be engaging the audience in two-way dialogue until the question and answer period.
1. Lose Your Fear: There is no doubt that standing in front of an audience, no matter how small, can instill fear in even the most confident of us. It is a skill, however, that almost certainly increases your earning power and elevates your stature by earning people’s respect. The rewards that you will receive far outweigh any bruises to your ego with any minor mistakes that you will make along the way.
2. You Will Makes Mistakes: Like any other skill, your mastery of becoming comfortable in front of an audience improves with repetition and modification of your style as you learn and adapt from feedback and experience. The reality is that you will make far more of an issue of any mistake than your audience will and in many cases they won’t even notice. Practice makes perfect and every time you speak, you will become stronger, more confident and a better communicator.
3. Frame Your Thoughts And Notes Into Milestones: Depending on the situation, you may or may not have materials to reference at your fingertips. Either way, have your thoughts bucketed into several major milestones or reference points. This way, if you lose your train of thought, or get distracted with a question, you can comfortably return to either your physical or mental notes to continue talking.
4. Engage the Audience: If you are reading a speech, you will clearly have your reference material in front of you, but you must engage the audience with regular eye contact and adjusting the tone of your voice to appropriately emphasize certain points. If you keep your head down and read in a monotone, you will lose the audience quickly. Point #3 is important as you will be constantly looking up to make audience contact.
5. Don’t Read PowerPoint Slides: The audience can read and they can do it faster than you can talk. You must use the slides as a reference to make your points and supplement the dialogue with new facts and anecdotes to keep the audience interested and engaged. If appropriate, flowing the bullet points or text so they appear one at a time can be a way to control the presentation and make your point with the right timing.
6. Pace Yourself, Relax and Breathe: A normal reaction for new speakers is to get nervous and talk too quickly to rush to the finish. Fight this reaction by planning how long your talk needs to be and then breaking it into rough time frames of how long for each section. Breathe deeply prior to the start and make sure that you go slow and breathe during your talk. If you make a mistake, shrug it off and move on - don’t dwell on it.
7. Practice and Consider Video Recording Your Rehearsal: You must practice before any presentation, even after you become a master of speaking to audiences of any size. Do not get frustrated and keep at it until you get more comfortable with your content and presentation. Consider video recording yourself to see how you appear to the audience and make any needed corrections. This is particularly helpful for new speakers to identify any habits or mannerisms that could be distracting to the audience.
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