5 Public Speaking Tools

Everyone gets nervous when standing in front of people and talking. People are staring at you and your brain cannot function normally. I have learned a few powerful tools to use to prepare before presenting information. These useful tips work for a casual meeting with coworkers and formal presentations.

1. First Impression

The instant you meet someone, they are unconsciously making decisions about you. It is how our brain works. Are you confident, smart, and capable of the getting the job done?

  • Self presentation. Choose to wear a professional outfit. This puts you on top of your game from the start. Get a nice pair of slacks, a few nice jackets, and a pair of shoes that are not worn through the sole. You will earn immediate respect without even opening your mouth. Looking sharp will also make you feel more confident.
  • Handshake. It has been proven through many different studies that your handshake reflects your personality. Do you have a firm handshake that indicates strength and assurance or do you have a flopping dainty handshake that indicates weakness and uncertainty. Either way, the person you are meeting will notice.
  • Speak Directly. Speak up loud and clear. If the audience cannot hear and understand you they will lose interest in what you are saying. Believe in what you are saying even if you are making it all up. We are all just making it up, but some people sound more sure about it.

2. Nonverbal

“80% of success is showing up,” 20% may be to fake it until you make it. Most of presenting yourself has nothing to do with your content, it has to do with preparation, appearance, and nonverbal gestures.

  • Be Self-aware.
    • Posture. Understand that your posture, facial expressions, and eye contact have huge impacts on the audience. Stand up straight – make it look like you want to be there, even if you do not. Hold yourself in a confident, tall manor.
    • Facial Expression. Your face should be relaxed and comforting. Give a welcoming smile to warm your audience and ease any tension in the room. Make them excited to listen to you.
    • Eye contact. Making eye contact with someone instantly creates a connection between you and that other person, if even for a split second. Make eye contact when they walk into the room. Look them in the eyes when you are meeting or greeting them, and make that connection again while you are presenting. This will keep them engaged with what you are saying. They will respect you more as a presenter, as a person, and as a leader.
  • Use Gestures
    • Hands.Work what your mother gave you. – make gestures with your hands to express points. Using open hand gestures showing the palm of the hand is inviting and welcoming. Using the back of your hand has negative connotations associated with punishment and arguments. Hand movements add animation to the presentation
    • Head. Subtle movements of the head shows you are relaxed, not stiff. You are engaged and comfortable.
    • Feet. Walk during your presentation. Don’t freeze like a statue, roam about freely. This is one of the most powerful tools. Walking around shows you own the space. You belong up there, you can’t be stopped, you own the room. Watch a Ted talk and see how a pause and a slow walk across the stage leaves the audience waiting for more. This invites drama, gives you a minute to breath, and to remember the next part.

3. Prepare

  • Agenda. Always come prepared with an idea in mind. An informal meeting runs smoother with a list of items to focus on. The audience can follow a formal presentation when the main ideas are shown in a list format at the beginning. This gives structure and allows others to follow along seamlessly. Everyone will have the same expectations at the beginning.
  • Instructions. Let those listening know if they are free to ask questions anytime or if you prefer to answer questions at the end. This comforts the audience to know what to do. It is better to know from the beginning, then to tell someone who is actively engaged in your presentation and asking questions that you do not have time to answer.
  • Organize. Put your thoughts into a list or structure. This will help you remember and let the presentation flow easily.

4. Introduction & Purpose

The hardest part is starting. If you have a well practiced introduction it will get you started easily.

  • Attention – get the audience’s attention. “Excuse me. Now that that everyone is here, I’d like to get started”
  • Greeting – make the audience feel welcome, “Welcome, Thank you for being here today.”
  • Introduction – Let them know who you are so they are not left wondering, who is this person? “My name is Leslie Knope, and I’m the director of the Park’s Department”
  • State Purpose – Why are you here? Why should we listen to you? “Today I will be discussing how to improve our town’s parks”
  • List – List your content, expanding on each point. Speak from the heart. Be engaged.
  • Restate purpose at the end. This will wrap up your speech and remind the audience why they are here. ” These are ways we can improve our town’s parks.”

5. Storytelling

Tell a story about your life to relate to the audience. It can be how you have failed at this in the past or how the subject has affected your life. A personal story gives them a small view into your life and allows them to connect.

Be expressive. Get excited about your story. Captivate them with your emotion.

Use names. Everyone likes recognition. Mention a coworker who is in the audience, or reference the client you are talking to by name. It includes them into your story and keeps them interested.

Pause. Pausing is huge. It gives you a minute to think, it shows you are in control, and it leaves a bit of suspense and drama to the sentence.

These powerful tips have helped me with presentations. It always helps to be prepared and to remember to breath. Sometimes the simplest things can make a huge impact.

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Michele Rivenbark

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