Dave turned and faced the group. As he looked at the 24 people seated in the meeting room, he felt his pulse quicken, his hands grew damp, and his face hot. Remembering an old public speaking trick he read in a magazine, he tried to imagine the group in their underwear. Now his face grew even hotter and he was certain his neck was starting to splotch red. “Good afternoon,” he began. “Today we’re going to talk about the scope of the project and the timeline.” Starting the power point helped calm his nerves somewhat, and he turned and read most of the slides to the group, elaborating a little as necessary. Halfway through the presentation, he gazed again at the audience, who seemed to be caught halfway between nodding off and eager to leave. Looking at their expressionless faces escalated his nervousness. Several people glanced at their phones, “Wondering how much longer I’m going to talk,” he thought nervously. Thirty-five minutes later, he finally ended by saying, “Any questions?” Relieved that not a hand was raised, he closed with, “Okay, that’s all I have.” He watched as people gathered their things and hastily left the room, their silence speaking volumes about the dryness of his public speaking abilities. What he failed to realize was all the time and energy he put into creating interesting power point slides had been wasted. A boring delivery nullifies even the best of graphics and is a complete time waster, not only for the presenter, but for the audience as well. This article provides three simple tips that will increase effectiveness for any speaker or leader of meetings.
Tip #1: Make Them Glad They Came!
Do you have time to spend attending unproductive meetings? Neither do the people with whom you work. Make them 1) thankful they attended, and, 2) willing to attend future meetings, by having an actual opening and closing to your presentation and peppering your talk with little examples. The simplest and most impactful way to do this is to tell a short story. And don’t say, “I’m going to tell you a short story that demonstrates why this topic is important.” Just launch into the story! An example might be: “4:00am Tuesday morning, plant employees walked into our Michigan facility and clocked in for their shift. What happened four minutes later shocked us all and created a public relations nightmare from which our organization is still recovering…”
Tip #2: Don’t Talk To Your Slides!
The verdict is in – slides are nice, but they are not the presentation – you are. The goal is to be perceived as though you are a leader, having a powerful conversation with your audience, as if the group were really a single individual. Turning your back to your audience only creates distance between you and them instead of the connection you both need to make and participate in an effective presentation. Don’t insult your audience’s intelligence by reading to them. Instead, provide a handout when you are going to talk about something specific like a chart or graph, or refer to the specific web page if your presentation is online.
Tip #3: Get Over Yourself!
Most people feel nervous because they worry about evaluation. Their motives are more about what people think about them than helping the individuals whose time they are taking. Being successful in front of a group is all about having your purpose and your motives lined up correctly. If your information is helpful to them or the organization, make sure they know about the connection. Fear is often a reflection of not enough speaking experience, misplaced negative evaluation thoughts, or the wrong motives in delivering the talk. Deal with the root of that nervousness to be effective as a public speaker. Currently, only a very few presentations are considered, “Excellent” or “Memorable,” so with a little training, coaching and enthusiasm, you can go a long way in making yourself stand out amongst the other presentations your audience will endure in their careers.
Bottom Line: Think about your audience first and get training if you need it! The best communicators often have the most influence, so keep improving your public speaking skills. Nick Ruotolo is a trainer with Greater Impact Ministries, Inc. He is filled with enthusiasm about helping younger workers avoid common mistakes while encouraging those in the middle or at the end of their careers discover a new enthusiasm, passion for excellence and purpose in their lives. Nick finds the growth that occurs in others through THE GREATER IMPACT COURSETM invigorating and inspiring and revels in helping others to achieve greater success.