Sometimes we invite friends of ours to share their thoughts and ideas. The folk at VBQ Speakers are a case in point – we hope you find their top tips for Public Speaking helpful.
Even if public speaking comes naturally to you, there’s always something that can be done in order to elevate the performance and make it that much more impactful. After all, being able to give an engaging and powerful presentation is crucial for developing your business and/or personal brand.
With this in mind, here are 5 tips to help anyone maximise the positive impact of their public speaking performances.
1) Give the organiser and audience what they want
The key to audience engagement is getting a good brief from the event host, and making sure you tailor your presentation to the audience's needs and expectations. Nothing will turn off an audience more than realising the speaker is delivering an off-the-peg speech to an audience they know nothing about.
So, ahead of the event, it’s important to find out as much information about the audience as possible. Find out how big the crowd will be alongside demographic information such as their ages and where they’re from. Think about what key messages the host wants the audience to take away with them, as well as how they would like the audience to feel after the speech is over. With all of these factors in mind, it will be easier to tailor your talk to the audience, ensuring they’re engaged and interested in everything you have to say.
If you’re speaking at an event alongside other speakers, you need to understand how your performance fits into the flow of the entire programme - the energy of your performance needs to be tailored just as much as the content. If you’re an opener, closer, or straight after lunch, a high energy performance will probably be required; however, for other slots it might be possible to consider a more relaxed and interactive session like a seminar or a workshop.
Make sure you discuss formatting options with the host beforehand. Ask them how long the talk should be, how long the Q&A should be and who, if anyone, will moderate it. This can help you plan out the overall performance, from the length and detail of the content through to the sort of language you should be using.
If you’re thinking of bringing in interactive elements, be sure to plan out how they’ll fit into your talk. For example, do you want the audience to be able to vote on particular questions, and will you need any technology (such as ipads) to help do this? Also think about how this might interrupt the flow of the speech, especially if there’s a glitch. Bear in mind, a straw poll of raised hands can sometimes flow better and have much the same positive impact as a poll using technology.
2) Channel your inner performer
Talk to the audience, don't read to them! While it’s ok to use notes here and there, don’t simply read out pre-prepared remarks from a piece of paper.
Similarly, think carefully about how you use slides. Don't cram them with too much information as this can be confusing and hard work for the audience to read, causing them to lose interest. Slides should enhance your talk, not be the main focus - and they definitely shouldn’t distract the audience from engaging with you. Remember the golden rule: never ever just read out your slides.
Public speaking is a performance art. In many ways getting on stage to do a speech requires the same level of confidence and skill as an actor. So make sure you give these elements as much attention in your preparations as you do the content.
If you’re less comfortable with the performance elements of public speaking, presentation coaching might be a worthwhile investment. A great coach can help you control your nerves, develop a strong stage presence, convey your message clearly and maximise your ability to engage, inform and entertain the audience.
4) Prepare every aspect of your performance meticulously
Think in detail about your performance and tech requirements, as well as ensuring you’ve discussed everything with the host in advance. This way, there’ll be fewer surprises that may throw you off course.
Ultimately, the more comfortable you are, the more comfortable and engaged the audience will be - so ensure you also have everything in place. This extends to making sure any slides or presentations fit with the AV set up of the venue. From the programme you use to the computer model you have, and even the font and slide ratio you’ve selected - be sure to brief the AV team on the spec of your presentation beforehand so they can make sure it’s compatible. Technical glitches are one of the main factors that negatively impact a speaker’s performance
Also, be sure to work out how you’re going to use the space. Think carefully about whether you want to walk around the stage, stand behind a podium or even sit down. How will this affect what kind of mic do you want to use - a handheld, lapel or head mic? Again, thinking carefully about these things and briefing the host in advance will ensure you are comfortable and give the best performance.
This may be an obvious one, but also make sure you actually get to the venue in good time! You need to allow enough time to set up and check all your tech elements are working, and it’s also helpful to get a feel for the space and the event before you get on stage. Arriving in a last-minute panic is never going to help you deliver a good speech. Moreover, it’s unprofessional - the host is unlikely to book you again if you put them through a stressful experience like that.
5) It’s about them, not you
A thread running throughout these tips is that audiences and organisers will notice if you take them and their needs seriously. Even if the aim of your speech is to educate your audience or promote your brand, remember that ultimately you are providing them with a service, and your preparations should be focused around providing customer satisfaction. This approach will ensure that your speech has the maximum positive impact on your audience, and that they listen to what you have to say. And if the audience is satisfied, the organiser will be satisfied too, which will increase the likelihood of future bookings and further opportunities to get your message across.
This article was written by conference and keynote speaker bureau, VBQ Speakers.