We’ve all suffered through painful speeches and presentations. In some corporate presentations, it seems like the speaker spent thirty minutes in a freezer before they came out to communicate their corporate announcement or product launch. As they stiffly chatter out their information, the audience braces itself to hear a cold presentation.
Great public speakers have a number of natural advantages that include personality, the quality of their voice, an awareness of their audience and a sense of drama in their presentations. This combined with excellent content and experiences make them the great communicators that they are.
If you are like most people, you don’t aspire to be a great public speaker. You just want to get it over with. As Jerry Seinfeld pointed out, people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death. So, what if you need to be able to do presentations to keep your climb the corporate ranks, add value to your organization or to just get past the dread of that part of your life.
How you prepare your presentation is important. If you clog your text with many big words that are not needed to communicate your ideas or meaningful to your audience, you’ve just made it difficult to succeed. Similarly, don’t use words that you can not naturally pronounce. Remember, you can always issue a written statement that is very eloquent and beautifully written but beautiful writing does not always translate into beautiful speech. Written presentations and oral presentations are different.
So, what to do?
Use words of different sizes – that will make it more naturally interesting. Say the following sentences aloud to hear the difference:
“It is my considered opinion that any decision that advances this kind of conclusion is clearly misguided.”
“I am sure that this decision will take us in the wrong direction.”
They both communicate the same idea but the first is very formal and includes many unnecessary components that force the listener to be a biologist as they try to “dissect the specimen”.
It is helpful to memorize your speech. Audiences are usually much more impressed by a speaker who speaks without notes – if he or she speaks well. Even if you are not at that level, memorizing will give you more confidence in your presentation. Sometimes you will need to choose your words carefully and will have to read your words to be legally precise in an announcement. Even in this kind of speech, memorizing your text creates a more powerful delivery.
Here are some simple ideas that you can have alongside your note as your tip sheet to more effective speech:
Fast & Slow – Vary the speed of your presentation. Speed up and slow down. You don’t want to be a train that is rattling along at the same pace.
To & Fro – Engage your whole audience. Look from side to side moving your head as well as your eyes. It is a way of acknowledging that everyone in the room is important and is noticed.
Deep & Shallow – Change the depth of where you look. Concentrate on those closer to you and those further away. Try to cover your whole group rather than having your eyes fixed on a single point at the back of the room.
High & Low – Change the pitch of your voice. Leave that monotone behind and allow your voice to go up and down. Raise it on positive and exciting points. Lower your voice on more serious statements or to emphasize concern.
Stop & Go – It is OK to pause at major points. This allows the audience time to pause too. The pause is not long – maybe just a couple of seconds but it creates a break for you and the listener.
Beyond these tips, taking a course is always a good idea. There is nothing like presenting in a safe place where you can receive valuable feedback and criticism. The role-playing of doing and hearing others speak is very useful. Most people can gain insights into making a few adjustments that will improve your confidence and effectiveness.
Another helpful idea is to start paying attention when others speak. Like a judge at a competition, think about not only what the person is saying but how she or he is communicating. What are the things that they do to make it easier to understand them or to be engaged in their message? What are they doing that distracts you or turns you off? It may make the next boring corporate presentation more interesting… at least you’ll know why it was boring!
Finally, there is nothing like experience. Like most of our fears – they start to disappear as you face them. If you have something worth saying – speak in a way that you will truly be heard.