Posted Thursday, February09, 2012
Public speaking often tops the charts when people are asked "What is your biggest fear?" The idea of getting up (gulp) in front of a large group of people (gasp) and (stomach churn) speaking – out loud, speaking – is enough to send them running for the hills.
So if everyone hates speaking in front of large audiences, one, why do we still demand it of one another, and, two, shouldn't we take comfort when we're the speaker that our audience understands our pain?
Take to heart during your next presentation that most people in the room have stood behind that podium and leaned heavily on the crutch we all endearingly call PowerPoint; an aptly named point of empowerment, to be sure. If this doesn't console you, then consider the following presentation tips, as graciously presented by Stepcase Lifehack.
- 10-20-30 Rule – From the gospel according to Guy Kawasaki, your slideshow presentation should have no more than 10 slides, last no longer than 20 minutes, and carry text no smaller than 30 point font.
- Be Entertaining – Remember your 7th grade science teacher? The one with the amoeba tie clip, monotone voice, and penchant for staring at the ceiling while he yammered for an hour every day? Yeah, don't be like him and you'll be fine.
- Slow Down – Nervous speakers talk really fast because they want to get through this stupid speech so they can, pretty, pretty please just sit down already so the torture can end! Deep breath…slow down…add pauses to your presentation…relax.
- Eye Contact – Whether it's your nerves that keeps you staring at your feet, the floor, the walls, that tiny speck on the wall that suddenly became mesmerizing, or because you're just that focused on your presentation, don't forget your audience is composed of individuals who deserve your attention, too. Granting them specific and intentional eye contact is just the polite thing to do.
- Speeches are About Stories – This tip circles the wagon back to the 'Be Entertaining' rule: tie stories, anecdotes, and emotion into your speech. If you can add a personal element to your presentation, your audience is much more likely to listen versus a speaker who merely reads a laundry list of bullet points.
- Project Your Voice – So, there you are, in a packed auditorium. A nervous tension wrenches your stomach. There's someone at the podium. They say, "And now we're proud to introduce our next speaker!" You hear your name. You take the stage, holding a clammy stack of sorry little notecards. "Good morning," you manage to utter. "I'm here today to tell you about…" Suddenly, a chorus of people start yelling at you: "Speak up!" This, of course, isn't helping your confidence at this moment. Do yourself a favor, speak through your nerves, take a deep breath to relax your neck muscles (which are choking your voice to a whisper) and speak to the guy all the way in the back.
- Breathe In, Not Out – Breathing in is a wonderful anecdote to those ultimate distractors, "um," "uh," "well," "you know," or any other word you utter too many times while searching for the words you really intended to say. A pause of silence while you take a breath is much better than turning your repetitive use of "Hmmm, well…" into a drinking game.
- Come Early, Really Early – Getting your space set up, running through your presentation, and being ready to start, and on time, will relax your anxiety and prevent potential glitches. Plus, it's just respectful to your audience and their schedules.
- Have Fun – Seriously, don't take yourself too seriously. Speeches happen every day and not a one of them has resulted in the end of the world, so it's likely yours won't, either. Also, no one has ever died of embarrassment.