Public speaking is an art – ask anyone who’s sat through a poor presentation.
It’s a sad fact, but overall the standard of public speaking falls well below where it should be, and that’s a pity, because being an accomplished speaker is an excellent route to raising a business profile.
And with that in mind, here are some pointers from Barbara Moynihan, a Past President of Toastmasters International (Dun Laoghaire club). Barbara believes there are 10 ways a public speaker can sabotage their presentation:
1. Poor rapport. The easiest way to get an audience on your side is to smile, start on time, dress appropriately for the occasion, and ensure you finish on time.
2. Not being authentic. The best speakers are confident, and it’s easier to be confident if you’re comfortable, and it’s easier to be comfortable if you’re being yourself. But sometimes we need to practice being ourselves. Try recording yourself on your phone, or even video yourself. Is the person you see and hear really you, or someone who looks like you pretending to be something you’re not?
3. Not minding the gap. Silence can speak volumes. Emphasise your key points by using pauses to add impact.
4. Being stone-faced. Engage the audience by engaging the 80 muscles in our face. You can produce around 7,000 facial gestures. Use more than one.
5. Avoiding the audience. Don’t be afraid, look them in the eyes. Do not spend your talk turning away from the audience to read from your PowerPoint. Slides should enhance your talk, not act as subtitles.
6. Too much tech-talk. Avoid TLAs. People don’t like it when they don’t understand Three Letter Acronyms. Unnecessary technical detail is another turn-off. Keep your message simple, and in English.
7. Being too serious. Everyone likes to laugh, but that doesn’t mean you have to be Michael McIntyre. If you can tell a joke, great. But if that’s not you, there are other ways to inject humour into your presentation. Try anecdotes, relevant pictures or short movie clips; Google and YouTube are your friends.
8. Poor planning. Your presentation is like a novel or a movie. It needs a beginning, a middle and an end. Keep the structure of your talk simple, with clear signposts and transitions to help your audience follow your narrative.
9. Lacking energy. Don’t be Mister or Ms Monotone. Project your voice, vary your pace and pitch, and be animated, using gestures to emphasise points.
10. Being boring. Adjectives, adverbs, metaphors and similes are what Toastmasters champion Andrew Brammer calls “linguistic sparklers”. Remember to sparkle.
Hopefully those tips will encourage you to polish your presentation skills and reap the benefits of public speaking. And if you really want to be inspired, join us on our Keynote Speaker Course and we will help you sparkle in front of your next audience.