Let’s be real, public speaking, for most people, is more than a little terrifying. Speaking to a group of people, whether in person or virtually, can be nerve-wracking. In fact, in a study of “America’s Top Fears”, almost 30% of Americans report that they are “Afraid" or "Very Afraid” of public speaking.
Presentations and public speaking, however, are vital for almost every industry, both internally and for external purposes (clients, speaking events, PR for the company, etc.). Not to worry, though, because we have made a list of the key components of a great presentation in order to get you started on your journey to public speaking success.
1. Have an agenda.
A good way to begin your presentation is to start with an overview so your audience knows there’s a focused agenda and a purpose to what they’re listening to. Once you’ve provided that outline, you’ll want to engage your audience and hold their attention by explaining “what is” (what is the problem, idea, process, etc.) that you want to explain or change. Then you can discuss “what could be”. This is what the outcome of your solution could look like or how this new process can better your listeners' current experiences.
2. Keep it simple.
Keep your audience in mind – long, over-complicated sentences, too many statistics and numbers or even never-ending stories can all serve to overwhelm your audience. A straightforward and focused presentation that moves at a steady pace will keep your listeners engaged and intrigued.
A good way to keep it simple: use and stick to a 3-part list with the main points outlined in your introduction. Reiterate the points at the beginning and end, and there’s a better chance your audience will have a strong takeaway of the key information.
3. Use visuals.
Help your audience visualize what you are saying by using imagery. Images help the audience remain engaged, whether you include pictures, graphs, charts, or animations. These visuals will only help enhance and reinforce the main points of your presentation.
4. Be honest and conversational.
Many of the most powerful speakers and speeches capture the attention of their audiences because they are passionate, firm and educated on their topic. And trust us, the audience can tell. Prior to giving a presentation, you should, of course, feel knowledgeable and confident about the topic you are discussing, and if possible, you should feel passionate about your topic of discussion. This can only help your audience connect more with your presentation. Use stories, real-life examples and ask and answer questions to help fuel this engagement.
5. For in-person presentations, master non-verbal behavior.
If you are presenting at an event, in front of a client, or even for an internal company project, mastering and utilizing non-verbal behavior can help you engage with your audience. Using calm hand gestures, smiling and changing up your vocals here and there can help you retain attention and enhance your speaking. Managing nervous non-verbal behavior can also help you seem more confident; try not to cross your arms, wring your hands or put your hands in your pockets.
6. Rehearse and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Practice, practice, practice. Nothing becomes great without first trying, sometimes failing (or failing often) and trying again. The best way to find mistakes and fix any potential issues with your presentation is by doing a dry-run in front of a practice audience. You’ll be able to get real feedback and it can help soothe nerves and inspire confidence (and even excitement) for your presentation. Ask for advice from peers, coworkers, family, friends, etc. Go to someone you view as an expert. Keep working on it and push yourself until you feel comfortable going into the event.
Although, there’s no one way to properly give a presentation or overcome public speaking anxiety, breaking down the key pieces of speaking can be a good place to start. When prepping, take things one step at a time and you'll become even better with every presentation you make.