Public Speaking: How to Nail an Interesting Presentation
Editor’s note: This is a contributed post by Jordan Driediger, an entrepreneur, public speaker, and writer from Toronto, Canada. He is the CEO of his own company DM2 Studios LLC. He has been speaking and teaching formally for 5 years. The biggest crowd he has had the privilege to speak to was around 2,000 people.
As an introvert, my ability to communicate didn’t come naturally. I consider this apparent flaw one of my greatest strengths, as it forced me to learn how to strategically present information. This led to a lifelong study of the art of communication.
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Regardless of what you do for a living, your ability to communicate effectively is crucial to your personal and professional success. While entire books could be dedicated to this art, I am confident that these few insights will assist you at becoming the master communicator you wish to be.
Recommended Reading: 5 Effective Communication Tactics/Tips For Designers
Use Different Methods to Communicate
There are two parts to communication:
- What you say (the message)
- How you say it (the presentation)
The presentation you use to get your message across does not have to be verbal; in fact, using only verbal communication is, in my opinion, the most common mistake made when trying to present information.
Your message can be packaged in anything from a video or drama, to a picture or graph. Choosing which method you will use will take careful thought and planning.
It’s in the Presentation Details
My favorite form of communication is design; it really is true that a picture is worth a thousand words. Imagine a poorly designed business website which is unorganized, cluttered, and clearly hasn’t been updated in close to a decade.
At the bottom of the site, you read words like "professional, informed, expert, care, and value". The greatest writer in the world couldn’t redeem that website using words alone – its message is flawed based on its presentation.
Whatever methods you use, it is always essential to look at every single aspect of your presentation and ask yourself "does this communicate my message effectively?"
Even when you speak, only 10% of your communication is verbal. What you wear, your body language, your expressions, and your tone of voice are just as important as the words you say. This is a principle that is incredibly important to understand, as it changes your entire approach to how you present your message.
For example, studies have shown what within the first 12 seconds of an interview, the interviewer has gathered enough information about you to decide whether or not they want to hire you – a good thing to know if you are looking for a job right now.
Give It To Them Straight
The same thing applies to TV commercials, listeners at a conference or meeting, and people looking at advertisements. You have a very short time to communicate your points; so don’t bury your message too deep. The first thing someone hears or sees should clearly present your message to your audience just as much as your closing statement.
Preparation Time is Never Wasted Time
People’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. We have moved from book to paper, to email, and text, and now we even have to communicate using only 140 characters! This can make getting your point across very difficult if you don’t plan your message carefully.
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Some people like stories and details; others just want the highlights and headlines. Some people prefer just listening; others need something to help them visualize. Regardless, you should be prepared to present your message effectively whether you have 5 minutes or 50.
Research what you are saying, and whom you are saying it to. I can’t tell you how important preparation time is to effective communication. Taking the time to understand your audience’s mindset can completely change how you present your message, so before you do anything – study.
It’s All About Them
I used to be a nervous speaker simply because my mind was focused on me. I was so concerned with what the audience thought about me that I got caught up in self-absorbed criticism of myself, resulting in terrible presentations. What I discovered after years of public speaking is that the opposite is true – your audience wants you to succeed.
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No one wants to listen to a nervous speaker; it’s awkward for everyone. People want to learn, they want the information you have, and they want you to ‘wow’ them with a great presentation – so give them exactly what they want.
You have two ears and one mouth for a reason – to listen twice as much as you speak. Unless you are giving a lecture or speech, you should always allow the listener to ask questions, or give input. Of course when the other person is speaking, ‘it’s all about them’; listen carefully and repeat parts of what they said back to them to prove you are paying attention.
It’s About Them
When it comes to general conversation, everyone’s favorite subject is themselves. Asking people questions about themselves is incredibly useful for several reasons.
They don’t need to think very much when talking about themselves. This takes away that tension in the room, creating a more friendly atmosphere.
They feel you are genuinely interested. Nothing makes someone feel more valued than when you sincerely want to know about him or her.
This takes the pressure off of you. Just keep asking the listener questions until you have something of real substance to contribute. This gives you a persona of intelligence.
Ultimately, your message and presentation revolves around your audience, not you. You should always think from their perspective, concentrating all your efforts in packaging your message to tailor-fit your audience.
Be the Expert in the Room
Whatever you say, say it confidently. When conveying any information, you should be perceived as an expert on the subject (if you spent adequate time preparing then this shouldn’t be a problem). By portraying the confidence an expert would have, you reassure those listening that you know what you’re talking about, and you are worth listening to.
This is especially important when speaking to people in authority, such as a job interview or sales pitch. If you want the listener to take you seriously, you need to take yourself seriously.
Eliminate Bad Habits
People will pick up on the subtle things you do when you communicate (avoid eye contact, fidget or shake, stutter or ‘umm’) so when practicing your presentation, try to eliminate your bad habits and distracting mannerisms.
Don’t Lie To Your Audience
Even experts can admit they don’t know something. Try to anticipate questions about what you’re presenting as best you can, and come prepared to answer them. If you don’t know the answer to something asked, say "I am unsure about that" or even better, "I don’t know, but I will find out for you". It’s always better to admit you don’t know, than lie to your audience.
Get To The Point
There is a saying that goes along with public speaking: "tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them". This saying goes straight to the heart of any good presentation: get to the point and repeat your point.
Whether you’re communicating through a speech, a book, a design, or some other means, you should have a clearly summarized objective of what you want to communicate. The objective for this article for example is ‘to teach someone how to communicate better’. From that simple sentence, I was able to expand the article into different key truths, then to add specific examples and details – but all of it is meant to reinforce my main point.
Planning to communicate
The first thing you should do when planning any communication is to write out in as few words as possible, what you want to say. A great question to ask is "if my audience only remembers three things from my presentation, what should they be?" When you know your key points, you can strategically plan your presentation to highlight those points. Using repetition and emphasis is the best way to ensure a message sticks.
Finally, and most importantly: find your voice. Your ‘voice’ is a term used to describe your unique and authentic perspective, which you should nurture and cherish. Apply the principles mentioned in this article along with your unique voice, and you will become a great communicator.
This post is published by a Hongkiat.com staff (editors, interns, sometimes Hongkiat Lim himself) or a guest contributor.