I love public speaking. Passionate presenting in front of 5, 50 or 500 people is what I truly enjoy. So I was very happy when I got asked for a speaking engagement last Saturday. The presentation had to be held in front of a group of just 10 people, but they were probably the toughest critics one can think of. I am pleased to report that it went very good, and that I managed to include them in Q&A and even practical breakouts during my gig.
In a funny coincidence, I stumbled across an article with public speaking tricks today. I support most of the tricks mentioned. They work well. Here are my three secret soup ingredients when it comes to public speaking:
- Speak LOUD
In smaller rooms and with smaller audiences, I usually do not need amplification, because I talk significantly louder than many other speakers I have met. The trick is to find a volume where you are not shouting yet and still have full control over the nuances of your voice. Not only will speaking loud help the audience to understand you. The main effect is that a loud and clear and steady voice will give you an aura of authority and expertship. As a side effect, it will force you to breathe regularly, which helps you to relax and makes your thoughts more clear.
- Speak SLOW
Some people suggest you should treat your audience as if they were a bunch of 5 year olds. I do not like the implications of that – it’s a disregard of your audience. However, what works for me, is to speak slow. Real slow. And then a bit. Of course you need to adjust to your audience, but still – speak slower than you would normally do in a conversation. Again, this helps your audience to follow you, but it also helps YOU to plan your sentence ahead, in order to avoid gaps. Especially useful in a Q&A track.
- Make eye contact
Secret sauce ingredient #3 is equally important. I usually pick 2-5 people from the audience, and keep eye contact with them. It’s really not important who you chose, but if there are important people in the audience (prospective clients for example), pick them. Otherwise pick the ones you think look most sympathic or attractive. Members of the audience you will NOT pick, won’t realize they were not picked, but WILL realize you keep eye contact with the audience. Shift your eye-contact among the people you picked in a random pattern. Actually, don’t think too much of it, it will happen automatically. The effect is that the audience gets the impression that you CARE about them, and that you want them to take something home with them from your presentation.
Those are my 3 golden rules for presentations. More general rules include to be well prepared, to know what you talk about, the make a full body presentation, with walking, gesticulation, leaning against things. I even sat down on stage edges occasionally, to address the audience.
Public speaking can be great fun and is definitely a rewarding experience. Next time you have to do it, remember my 3 suggestions.