Mar 09

I was speaking to my father last week (who is recently retired), and he told me a story about a friend of his who was going to be doing some public speaking. His friend was feeling rather nervous about the prospect of speaking in front of a group.

My father, who’s done his fair share of public speaking over the course of his career as a manager, wrote up the 10 points I’ve detailed below. I thought these points were great and wanted to share them. So here you go:

Tip #1: Remember that no one in the audience knows as much as you do about the topic. You are the expert.

Tip #2: The audience is interested in what you have to say. Slow down and take the time to think between the points you want to emphasize. This will demonstrate your confidence and the depth of your knowledge of the subject.

Tip #3: Practice, practice, practice.

At the venue before your presentation:

Tip #4: Check out the room. Walk up to the podium and simulate the presentation in your mind before you have to give it. This can be done the night before, during a lunch break, or during the natural break prior to your presentation. (Note: The more time you have between this and the actual presentation, the better.)

Tip #5: Meet the technical people. Make sure that they know what your material consists of (PowerPoint, videos or audio). Be prepared for an IT meltdown – have some hard copies of your presentation to handout if the IT fails. Above all, don’t apologize for a failure in the technology – have a backup plan. In my opinion, this is the most common failure in presentations: not having a plan.

During your presentation:

Tip #6: Make eye contact. Look for the friendly faces of people that you know or have spoken to. This will help you use spontaneous examples to support your presentation. And remember – stay on track! Keep the examples brief, but connect with those in the audience that you know are supportive of you personally and what you are presenting. This will connect you with the majority of the audience.

Tip #7: Relax. All of the tension has occurred 2 or 3 days before the presentation. You know the material, you have done the planning, and you have friends and supporters in the audience. You have an important message for them and they want to hear it.

Tip #8: If questions arise, be polite and answer them, but don’t let questions throw you off your presentation plan. Let the questions flow, but there will be a natural break when you can bring the presentation back to your control. Audience interest and discussion is a very positive thing, but ensure that you regain control and finish your material.

Tip #9: If you don’t know the answer – be honest! “I don’t have all of the information on the point you’re making, but I will make some inquiries and get back to you with an appropriate answer.”

At the conclusion of your presentation:

Tip #10: Thank the audience for their attention and interest. If there are outstanding issues or unanswered questions, pledge to do the follow up. This is normally a time when questions are asked. When they are finished, reiterate what a pleasure it has been to present the important information to the audience.

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