Being able to properly speak in front of an audience is a skill that can be immensely important, whether you are an artist, running a business, or being a student. At one point or another, you will need to make a speech or do a presentation in front of a crowd. Having done a multitude of presentations in my time, whether it be for school or for work, here are some useful tips that can help you turn an otherwise stagnant performance into pure gold:
1- Tell stories
One of the best and most effective ways to make people connect to what you are saying is through storytelling. It is much easier to remember the lesson or the idea of the presentation if it was told in a way that makes the audience listening to it visualize it easily, and experience it as if it was them going through that situation. Barack Obama used this brilliantly in his victory speech on Nov. 4th when he discussed the story of this 106 year old woman. The next day, all the media were talking about it. Behold the power of storytelling!
2- Relate to your audience
When you are on stage, although you are not a part of the audience, you have to relate to them as if you were among them. You have to put yourself in the shoes of the people watching and ask yourself, how would I like to be talked to? You see, you don’t want to lose your audience with intellectual jargon that bypasses their head 90% of the time. You have to use example and language that they will relate to. Another good example is politicians on the campaign trail. They will adjust their speeches as well as their behavior according to the city and population they are in, so as to connect with their audience on a more personal level.
3- Laugh at yourself
When you are on stage, in a position of authority, it is important not to take it all too seriously. You don’t want to be sitting on your high horse looking down at everyone else. This is why humor is the best method to show a little humility. Being able to poke fun at your own expense will convey the message to your audience that you are a fun-loving person that doesn’t take this whole process so literally. I remember this one presentation I had done for an English Litt. class where I had really nailed it and done a masterful job in terms of technique and content. Thankfully, I made it humorous at my own expense, and it eased the crowd ALOT. Audiences love humility, and they will respect and admire your talent and skills even more when you are able to laugh at yourself.
4- Involve your audience
A solid presentation should always include the audience. There is nothing more boring than just listening to someone talk without any involvement. To get your audience involved mentally and emotionally, you have to get them involved physically. Through laughter is one way, as we mentioned above. Tony Robbins asks his audience questions, and asks them to scream “Aye” if they agree with what he says or does. Getting your audience to clap, stand up, or even pick out certain members of the audience for a particular exercise or demonstration is a wonderful way to get your audience involved. It makes them pay attention, and thus makes the entire experience much more memorable.
5- Tune into your daily life
When you can provide an insight into your day-to-day life while doing a presentation, it can help you connect with your audience on a deeper level. When an audience listens to a multi-millionaire, or a business mogul, or the CEO of their company, it can be hard for them to imagine this person as just another human being with the same daily struggles as everyone else. This is why it’s crucial to provide such examples to show that you are just like them, and not an alien from another planet. I recall this one presentation I was attending. There was a huge chaos downtown due to a problem with the bus system. The speaker mentioned this at the beginning of his speech and really showed that he went through the same problems as his audience to get to the venue. It was a brilliant move that really made people pay attention to anything else he had to say.
6- Be prepared
This should be a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how some people show up unprepared to give speeches. I’ve seen people read off cue cards without making any eye contacts, and some people stop dead in their tracks and start over. There is no better way to lose your audience than by doing this. For an audience to trust you and let whatever it is that you are saying sink in, it needs the proof that you LIVE what you are saying. It needs proofs that you are an expert in the field, and such an expert does not stumble. You want the audience to look up to you and be amazed. You don’t want people in the audience to say “I can do this better than he can”. Zig Ziglar practices for his presentation for hours and hours the day before. That’s on a presentation he’s been presenting for over 20 years! In the world of public speaking, it’s best to never show up than to show up unprepared.
7- Be creative
Bonus points are definitely in store for thinking outside the box and doing things out of the ordinary. For example, if you are to give a presentation among a bunch of other ones, do you really want it to be the same as everyone else? Of course not, you want to stand out and be memorable. You want to be the star that shines the brightest among all other stars. This is where your creativity can come in handy. This was one of my strongest points when I did presentations at University. I would watch all others, and instead of saying “what can I borrow from them?”, I would ask myself “what can I do to be different from them?”. You can strike gold by being completely different than everyone else.
8- Surprise your audience
This follows the same logic and ideas as the point above about being creative. However, a creative idea can also be stale. So you want to surprise, shock, and entertain your audience! This will make sure that your creativity is broadcasted throughout the audience under its best form. I remember seeing this presentation about mathematics from this tiny nerdy looking man that seemed so quiet and peaceful. Everyone thought that this would be a very technical presentation that would bore half of us to sleep. On the contrary, once this man started, he came alive, spoke very loudly and with tons of gesturing and running up and down the stage. It was quite the sight! Totally took us by surprise and really made us pay attention. There were other speakers that day, but I only remember this one man. That’s how powerful surprising your audience can be!
9- Have a good time
When you are up there on stage, you need to enjoy yourself. Nobody will enjoy a speech or presentation if the person speaking looks uncomfortable or looks like they don’t want to be there. This is your time to shine, so make the most of it. Next thing you know, it will be over, so you really want to be fully present into the moment, suck it all in, be yourself, and just appreciate how wonderful it is that all these people are listening and looking up to you. If your audience believes that you are having the time of your life, they will have a great time being in your presence.
Public speaking and presentations are a necessity as you climb the ladder of success. Hopefully these tips will help you along the way 😉