Thursday, March 31, 2016
Sure, there are BIG IMPORTANT things to do to be a great presenter. Things like turning your focus 180 degrees, organizing your presentation in threes, and PRACTICING OUT LOUD. Here are five tiny, but equally important, things you can start doing today, right now, to be a better, more effective presenter. They're "tiny" because they require virtually no effort on your part, but the results they provide will be, to quote my family's favorite elf, "ginormous."
1) Smile! At your audience! Forget your fear, forget your conviction that you're not a great presenter, that you're totally uncomfortable in front of a group of people and SMILE. C'mon, just do it. Great things will happen when you do. First great thing: your audience will smile back - they won't be able to help themselves; we're physiologically or sociologically programmed to smile at another person when they smile at us. Second great thing: you will literally feel better when you smile - smiling makes our bodies feel good. Third great thing: when our audience smiles back at us their bodies will feel good! It's a virtual circle of feeling good. How great is that? Plus, when you look at your audience and smile, the message you're sending is, "I'm happy (and confident) to be here." That gives them confidence in you and what you're about to say. Great way to begin, right? But wait - there's more...
2) Make eye contact. I know, I know, some "genius" told you that if you're afraid of public speaking just look over the audience's heads. Bad bad bad advice. How can I connect with you if I don't look you in the eye? How can I know if you agree, disagree, if you're confused, bored, angry, tired...? Remember, the audience doesn't feel like a big scary blob. They feel like what they are - individual people. They are there to be communicated with, and a big part of that communication is eye contact. Look at 'em. And smile. See? Nothin' to be scared of.
3) Stand still. At least for the first two to three minutes or so. Allow your audience to get a clear look at you. In these first few minutes they're determining how they feel about you and thus, about what you have to tell them. Allow them these first few minutes to make that determination. It will make it much easier for them to give their full attention to your message.
4) Go short. No one ever faulted a speaker for ending their presentation five or even ten minutes early. In fact, if you're speaking at a conference and you're the speaker just before lunch or (worse) just before cocktails, tell your audience at the start of your presentation that you're going to shorten your remarks. You'll be a hero before you say another word! One note of caution; don't go too short in these situations or you'll mess up the conference hosts' schedule. Always let your audience know that you'll be around after your presentation to answer any questions or hear any thoughts they might have.
5) Thank 'em. I begin and end every presentation by sincerely thanking my host and the audience. (This makes it easy to smile, by the way.) Not only do I mean it, but I believe it's good manners. They've invited me to speak, often at their own time and expense. I am their guest, and as such I want to show gratitude. Begin and end each of your presentations with a sincere "thank you". Gratitude is always a good thing, and will endear you to your audience right from the start.
None of these five "tiny" tips are difficult, or even new or different. They're easy to implement immediately and most important - they work. Do them and you will be connecting positively with your audience right from the beginning of your presentation and you'll be heard.