The 4 Things To Make You a Better Speaker
When you see somebody do a presentation at a conference, a luncheon, or even in a boardroom you quickly form an impression of what you’re seeing and listening to without even thinking about it. I’m the same. We all make assumptions based on the person’s looks, voice, mannerisms, how they dress, what they say and many other factors.
Some of those things can’t be controlled by the speaker, but many other things can and you may be surprised to know that some of them occur BEFORE the person hits the stage. I’ve been able to identify four things that almost everyone doing a speech should do differently and all are related to how they prepare. While each point directly affects their presentation, they’re all mistakes people make long before they get in front of an audience.
Build a Foundation Before Your PowerPoint
Here’s a real common mistake that people make when they sit down to plan their presentation and I know because I used to do this.
People who don’t speak professionally normally have an idea of what they want to talk about, so they sit in front of their computer and open PowerPoint or Keynote, find a template or theme they like and start designing their presentation. While this isn’t a terrible thing, most people need to take a little time to initially to think about what they want to say before they start designing their slide deck. You’ll find it won’t take any extra time to first plan what you want to say before building your slides. Most people will learn that after they start building their slide deck they’ll have to go back and redo a lot of slides because they forgot to mention something, or they didn’t have the slides in the right order.
Here’s what I suggest. Use a blank sheet of paper and list the things you want to talk about. Concentrate on topics and try to get it down to between two and four broad topic areas. Think of these topics as drawers in a filing cabinet. Spread the topics on the page when you write them, allowing room in between each one.
Then think about what you want to say about each topic and list each one as a bullet point under that topic. Consider these points like files that go into each drawer in the filing cabinet.
You may start with a short story to help connect to the audience, then tell the audience what you plan to talk about (your topics) and wrap up with a summary or closing statement. This is a little hard to visualize so I’ve provided an example to illustrate what I mean. I’ve done some work with real estate boards, so my topic will be about a local real estate market.
I hope you can read my printing. This should give you an idea of how to lay out your speech. Once again, use a different slide for each topic or bullet point.
Use Images To Help, Not Hurt You
The problem with using a PowerPoint or Keynote template or theme is that it’s not “you”. How can it really be your presentation if you’re using a template that the next speaker could be using as well?
Here’s the key thing to understand. Each topic and point you plan to make under each topic should have a slide dedicated to it. So in other words, when you speak about the effect of low interest rates under the current situation you’ll have a slide related to it. When you move to the next bullet point there will be a slide for that one and so on. This will help you when you do the presentation without using notes because each slide will prompt you what to say. More on this in next week’s blog.
I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about using free images, so I’m not going to repeat many of those points here, but find images that help you tell your story. The images should prompt you so you’ll know what to say and then support your message. They shouldn’t dominate you or your message.
Practice May Not Make You Perfect, But It Will Make You Better
You’ve thought about your presentation, designed a great slide deck, so now what? Your next step is to practice. Try to find a spot in your home or your office where you can do the actual presentation. Time yourself to see how long the presentation goes and always try to finish a few minutes earlier than the length of time you’ve been asked to speak, so if you start a couple of minutes late you won’t rush to finish on time and make mistakes as you do.
Try to make the practice session as close to what you’ll face when you speak, so use a wireless remote control to advance your slide deck and try speaking the same way as you plan to during your presentation.
Avoid Technical Meltdowns
So now that you’re ready to go, an organizer may make the following suggestion “Just bring your presentation on a stick”. My advice is, do whatever you can to insist on bringing your own laptop and using it as you make your presentation.
There are far too many problems that can occur if you bring your presentation on a stick. To begin with, if you use a Mac, many PC’s won’t be able to read anything on the stick because of different formatting, so there’s no way it can get to your presentation. Even if the laptop you’re using corresponds to the type of computer you did the presentation on and it already has PowerPoint loaded, your version of PowerPoint may be different. If your version was a more recent one than the laptop you’re using for the presentation, it may not be able to use the same fonts, or perhaps the transitions you created will be different. You don’t have to worry about any of these issues if you use your laptop.
A word of caution though, if you use a Mac you will likely need to bring an adapter to tie into to the projector’s VGA (Video Graphic Array) connection. If you have a PC you won’t have this issue. You may also want to bring along an HDMI to HDMI cable if your laptop has an HDMI connection. It’s a great way to connect to some projectors and also flat screen TV monitors because the HDMI connection also carries any audio you have in your presentation, such as video clips.
If you are using audio make sure there’s a way to play it back properly at the event. In many cases you can use the “house sound”, which is something common at hotels or places where presentations are often given. At other locations though they may not have anything to reproduce the audio, so it can be really helpful to bring your own speaker just in case.
Don’t depend on wireless connections where you’ll be speaking Try to get any video clip you plan to use embedded in your presentation. Trying to pull up something off YouTube in the middle of your speech is just too risky.
I mentioned a wireless presentation device earlier in this blog. If you’re doing some presentations it’s a really handy device to have. They’re not that expensive and can make you look much more professional. For years we’ve seen people doing a presentation say to somebody sitting next to their laptop “next slide please”. Not exactly the height of professionalism.
You’ll find if you spent time on these four points before you do your presentation the actual speech will go much better. Your confidence will be better and as a result,your nerves will be much easier to manage. When you hit the stage it’s not the right time to wish you had prepared differently.
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