Presentations make everyone nervous. Whether you’re pitching an idea, delivering a keynote speech at a conference or taking part in a live discussion, speaking in front of an audience is always a little bit daunting. We’ve put together some essential tips to give your next address a boost.
Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying failing to prepare is preparing to fail. Undertaking the correct preparation for speaking at conferences and trade shows is essential.
- Confirm your role. Are you speaking alongside others? Are you speaking as part of a panel in discussion with other speakers? It is essential to confirm with the event hosts what is expected for you can better prepare. Do you need to rehearse with any other speakers? Find out who’s on your panel so you can properly research your fellow speakers in advance.
- Focus the purpose of your presentation. Are you there to educate and inform on complicated issues and share your skill set and expertise. Or are delegates looking for broader discourse about industry topics and trends?
- Communicate with the host. If they’re writing the synopsis of your session it’s essential to be on the same page so everyone going in is on the same page.
- Know your audience. Research on who’ll be listening to your presentation is crucial whether you’re presenting to one person or a thousand. Understanding their concerns with your topic, their level of expertise and their background can help you to pitch your message in exactly the right way. Talking to potential members of your audience is the best way to find out exactly what they’re expecting.
It doesn’t matter how good your content or ideas are if you can’t communicate them properly. These essential speaking tips are a great way to improve your speaking and build a foundation of confidence to present an amazing talk.
- Breathe. Before you go out on stage or into the boardroom simple breathing exercises can help you relax and focus. Clear your lungs. Take a deep breath, hold it in for five counts then exhale sharply collapsing your body. After repeating this several times. Make the sound “Ha!” as you exhale. You’ll feel a bit silly but it’s a great way to break those pre-show nerves and tension.
- Slow down. Rushing or stumbling over your words reduces the effectiveness of your speech. When practising your presentation tap your leg every time you say a word. It’s difficult to gauge just how fast you’re speaking but this exercise makes it easier to tell if you’re rushing. Pauses are ok and remember to take a breath.
- Don't hide from the Audience. If you’re speaking from a podium don’t lean on it or hide behind it. Similarly, maintain an upright and open posture, don't cross your arms, you’ll just constrict your lungs and look less confident. Instead, plant your feet on the ground, keep your shoulders down and stay relaxed.
Speaking with confidence isn’t about avoiding nerves all-together. Expect to be nervous, it’s part of the preparation for every presentation. With good preparation and will the help of our breathing exercises you’ll be all set, though there is one last tip.
Visualise success. The day before you present simply sit comfortably somewhere quiet, close your eyes and imagine yourself delivering a great presentation. A bit of positive reinforcement never goes a-miss and can really help confidence beforehand and temper the pre-showtime jitters.
Finally, presenting in the right space is a great foundation for confidence. Don’t get caught up with AV hassles as you desperately try and figure out how to get your powerpoint up on the screen. Bad seating can leave half your audience wondering why they paid to sit and watch the back of someone’s head. Dodgy acoustics can leave you trying to talk over your own echo. With the right meeting or conference venue, the only thing you’ll need to think about is the best way to respond to a standing ovation.
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