Speaking in front of an audience can be a daunting experience but it is part of the job description for many executives. Because of this, we are often asked to coach clients when they are tasked with delivering a speech. No matter if you are presenting to investors, clients, or the media, these six tips will put you at ease in front of a crowd. And the best part is, picturing the audience naked is not one of them.
1. Start Strong
Like a first impression, you only get one chance to wow your audience. Start strong and convey a zest and energy for your topic. The audience wants to like you, they really do. So don’t give them a reason not to by being meek.
2. Be Concise
The fastest way to lose an audience is to take the stage for too long. An audience will retain limited information from a speech or presentation so the best way to get a point across is to deliver a clear, succinct message with a few facts or anecdotes to illustrate key points. Keeping it short and staying on topic will ensure the audience remains attentive and focused.
3. Slow Down
When speaking in front of an audience, most people become nervous and therefore speed up their speech. Audiences typically find it difficult to keep up with someone who is speaking fast, so make sure to consciously slow your speech and add pauses for emphasis.
4. Be Mindful of Body Language
Make sure to stand up straight and be mindful of maintaining good posture. Don’t cross your arms or keep your hands in your pockets. If you show signs of being disengaged, the audience will too.
5. Make Eye Contact
An audience who feels as if they are part of the conversation will stay focused, and the best way to achieve this is to make eye contact. Don’t focus on just one person; instead make sure you connect with a few friendly-looking folks. This will also help both you and the audience feel much more at ease.
6. Practice, Practice, Practice
You can’t run a marathon without training and you can’t be a good public speaker without practice. Practicing out loud and to a small audience in the space in which you will deliver your speech or presentation is by far the best bet. By doing this you can gain feedback and also become familiar with the surroundings in which you will deliver your speech. This is especially important if you plan on using technical equipment as this will allow you a test run of setting up. There’s no better way to lose an audience than to scramble about looking for a plug or getting a PowerPoint to work. If you don’t have access to the room beforehand, arrive early so you can address any technical issues should they arise. And once you have practiced in front of a small audience, keep on practicing. In front of a mirror, in the car, at home alone… The old adage is true, practice makes perfect.