How is that some people are so easily able to stand in front of a group of people and hold their attention while speaking? This question about presentation delivery skills made me think of my sister, a lawyer, and a prosecutor no less. I was curious to know what she thinks is most important when she addresses the court, so I decided to give her a call. Without hesitation she said, “Start with a strong argument!”
Conventional wisdom has it that presentations and speeches should start with a personal anecdote, but I wouldn’t dare dispute my sister’s point of view. (Since we all know who would win that argument!) Besides, she works with a very specific kind of presentation, just as politicians or government leaders do. Even so, her point is well taken – a strong argument and the ability to be persuasive will help you with any form of public speaking.
The reason presentation delivery skills came to mind is in part due to my recent Language Lab blog post, Public Speaking: It’s Really About Writing. In that post I emphasized the importance of writing when it comes to preparing for presentations. But I didn’t want to leave you thinking that great presentations were only about the writing. As you’re well aware, there’s more. Knowing how to hold people’s attention and the tricks that help get you through any nervous sweaty moments you may have when facing a crowd is another important skill set.
The following Language Lab tips will help to develop that skill set and will ensure your presentations aren’t dull:
6 Quick Tips on How Not to Be Boring
Fake It Till You Make It:
Even if you’re not feeling confident, act as though you are. Your body language communicates more than you realize – slumping or fidgeting with notes conveys uncertainty or anxiety. Make eye contact with the audience. Scan the group from east to west and north to south– before you even begin to speak. Otherwise, you’re certain to appear rushed and nervous.
Personalize your communication so that your audience sees you as an individual, a human being with a point of view. We all respond to individuals who seem to speak directly to us as people. Few of us enjoy being bombarded with reams of information and facts.
Aim For The Target:
Be sure to ask yourself “Who is my audience?” Aim your content at that target. There’s no point speaking as though you’re addressing a jury when in actual fact you’re talking to, say, a group of computer-phobic employees about improving their computer literacy skills.
Keep It Simple Stupid is admittedly a little rude, but it makes the point – avoid over complicating your presentation with elaborate, obscure language or sentences. Use clear, short sentences, the best way to get your points across. And it goes without saying (or it should!), know your material well.
Be animated and enthusiastic – there is nothing worse for an audience than having to listen to a monotone, or to be dragged down by a presenter’s lack of energy. I’m sure, like all of us, you’ve suffered through classes where the teacher literally put someone to sleep. That’s not the kind of presenter you want to be!
Crack A Smile, If Not A Joke:
Humor can be a great element of a successful presentation. But you have to be comfortable with making a joke or you’ll fall flatter than the rug on the floor. (Speaking of jokes that aren’t that funny.) So if you do decide to inject humor into your presentation, be sure it’s humor your audience will understand; humor that won’t offend. And if you aren’t comfortable joking, at least manage the occasional smile!
The above tips are just a few ways you can improve your presentation delivery skills, and avoid boring your audience. But, if you’re just starting out, you may want to get some formal help from the tried and true in the public speaking business: Toastmasters.
Even if you have a lot of experience, it never hurts to brush up your presentation skills or to learn new techniques. When I first had to speak a lot in front of audiences, I went to Toastmasters for the basics. Not long ago I returned for a public speaking checkup. Although I’m not ready for the courtroom, I’m confident that my audience won’t be nodding off while I’m doing my next presentation.
Send us your best tips about making presentations and we’ll publish them on the Language Lab blog.