You may never set foot on a stage as a speaker at a TED event. The words “Keynote Speaker” may never appear next to your name in a conference brochure. You may never be invited to be the commencement speaker at your alma mater. And you may be more relieved than disappointed by these statements!
Even if you aren’t in a position to take the stage and deliver the speech of a lifetime, you will be called upon to speak throughout your career. From project kick-off meetings to sales pitches and potential investor meetings, public speaking is an integral part of the business leader’s job description. Finding confidence in your abilities to present, no matter what the size of your audience, begins by writing a good presentation.
You could write the most amazing presentation ever given and it’s going to fall flat if you’ve not written it with your audience in mind. You’re excited about your new business and you’ve got a boiler plate explanation that helps highlight all the great reasons for your enthusiasm. The problem is, the things your investors want to hear won’t necessarily be the same things your mom is looking for, or your customers, or your future team members. Before you start preparing this talk, get to know your audience and then craft your presentation to address their specific areas of interest.
You’ve got a lot to cover, but you’re also talking to a bunch of busy folks who, no matter how interested they are in you, are also interested in the next item on their calendar. There’s little that can rattle a speaker more than seeing her audience check their watches. Be mindful of how much time you’ve been allocated. Create a speech outline to make sure you’re hitting all the relevant points, flesh out your talk, and then run through a few rounds of timed practice.
The average adult attention span gives you about 20 minutes to make your points to an engaged audience. Don’t hold back the exciting bits and pieces of your presentation. In fact, lead with them. You want to snag your audience’s attention from the start and then spend the next 15 minutes or so supporting and expounding upon your initial point. For example, if you’ve just created a product that addresses the unmet needs of 70% of a market valued at billions of dollars a year, tell your potential investors that immediately. Once they’ve leaned in with intent, pencils at the ready, ears perked, you can expound further on the details.
No matter how spectacular the middle of your talk is, the parts your audience will remember the longest are the beginning and the end. Use the final moments of your presentation to recap your most important points in a way that ties them all together and reaffirms your primary message. Don’t forget to wrap things up with a call to action. What is it you want your audience to do with this information when they walk out that door?
Hammer Home the Highlights
Tell your audience exactly want you want them to know. If you’re sharing an important statistic or detail, repeat it. Use transitional phrases like “What does this mean to you?” or “Here’s why this is important” If your audience has started to wander, repetition and verbal cues can pull them back in for the important stuff.
You Are Part of the Package
Don’t overlook the importance of personality. No matter how stunning your stats may be or how attractive your offer is, your audience needs to connect with you as a person if this talk is going to hit home. Be personable. Be approachable. Remember you’re not up there to regurgitate data and technical details; you’re telling a story people want to hear. Keep your audience engaged by including them in your talk. Ask them for a show of hands. Toss out a few questions and gather their input. Know their pain points (You did your homework before you even started writing this talk!) and make sure you address them.
Turn It Over
No matter how well prepared you are, there may be some audience questions you did not anticipate. Leave some time for discussion so those questions can be asked and answered. If you have a half-hour appointment with a potential new client, keep your presentation to 10-15 minutes to allow for conversation during or after your prepared material. Remember, the information sharing doesn’t have to end when you leave the room. Offer a link to online materials, case studies, and other relevant information so your audience can dig through the materials further at a later time.