You have probably watched business speakers who left their audience bored to tears, and you have probably also seen business speakers that can bring a room alive.
Even in the driest technical meeting, there is room to wow your audience. Here are 10 best practices you can put to work, so you can affect your audience as powerfully as the best business speakers.
1. Know Your Content
There is no substitute for knowing your content from every conceivable angle. If there are to be questions and answers after your presentation, you must be ready for questions that seemingly come from left field. The better you know your content, the more adept you will be at connecting with your audience and answering their questions.
2. Understand the Technology, Venue, and Setup
Know in advance whether you will make your presentation in a conference room, an auditorium, or some other venue. Find out what technology will be available to you, and who will help you set up. If possible, visit the venue before your presentation so you can better visualize your audience.
3. Visualize Yourself Succeeding
Visualize walking to the podium, adjusting the mic, operating the audio-visual equipment, and delivering your content. Also, visualize the applause once you finish, and try to think of questions you’re likely to be asked. Visualizing success is more powerful than you may think, and reminds you that, in general, your audience wants you to succeed.
4. Practice Beforehand
While there is some danger of rehearsing too much and coming across as overly scripted, most people don’t practice presentations enough times for that to be a problem. Many business speakers capture video of their practice presentations, so they can see for themselves what their audience will see, and adapt their presentation style accordingly.
5. Structure Your Material to Have a Beginning, Middle, and End
Like a great story, your presentation should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning allows you to lay out the purpose of your presentation, the middle contains the “meat” of your content, and the end summarizes and reiterates your main point. Structuring your content keeps you from rambling or going off on tangents.
6. Don’t Bury the Lede
Journalists have long used the expression “Don’t bury the lede” (yes, spelled that way) to remind themselves and each other of the importance of grabbing the audience right away. Capturing an audience’s attention in the first few seconds you’re in front of them improves your connection with them and helps ensure their attention doesn’t wander during your presentation.
7. Watch the Audience Before You Go On
If you’re the first speaker up, you won’t get to do this, but usually, you have the opportunity to size up the audience and how they relate to the speakers before you. Some audiences are enthusiastic and receptive, while others are more reserved. If the audience is treating every speaker with coolness, don’t feel bad if you don’t knock their socks off. You still probably did a terrific job, even if they didn’t directly communicate that.
8. Don’t Be Afraid to Make an Emotional Connection
People remember things better when emotions are involved. If you are able to tie emotions into your presentation, you essentially “wake up” more parts of the brain. When this happens, people are more likely to remember the information being conveyed. It may be hard to be emotional about, say, the drill string on an oil rig, but even a humorous aside that your audience will “get” injects emotion and makes you more memorable.
9. Pause Strategically at Transition Points
Be mindful of time limits, but avoid barreling through your presentation at breakneck speed. When you pause strategically at transition points in your presentation (say, between the end of the findings and your conclusions), you give your audience the chance to catch their breath, so to speak. Pauses help keep your audience from feeling overwhelmed by a deluge of data.
10. Gain Experience Whenever Possible
The most outstanding business speakers gain experience wherever they can. That may begin with a local Toastmaster’s Club and progress to speaking to local audiences at community events. The most accomplished business speakers make sure they gain the experience necessary to connect better with their audience and hone their skills with every opportunity.