Advanced Public Speaking tips and some lesser-known “nuts-and-bolts” of presenting advice beyond the basics.
Most people know the basic tips of public speaking…Don’t face the audience, maintain good eye contact, practice. But those basics will only go so far.
Here are some strategies that can help you excel beyond the basics of public speaking to improve your public speaking skills.
1. It’s better to know the subject than the presentation.
Learning anything from memory is really hard. But so is looking at notes, or reading presentations out from a script. If I try and learn a presentation I get worried – I’m aiming for something so specific, there’s a feeling of pressure around getting it right, and a feeling that if I forget something the whole house of cards will fall apart.
I prefer to only speak about stuff I know a bit about, and just use the slides to reinforce key points and basically prompt me to talk about certain aspects of a topic, as appropriate to that particular audience. This is much more relaxing than worrying about remembering particular phrases etc. It also means you’re more flexible – things can even be tackled in a different order based on what the audience wants, for example. In short, you can’t be derailed because you’re not on rails. That’s a very reassuring feeling.
2. Imagine your audience leaving the room (after your talk!).
It’s often very hard to know where to start when creating a presentation – the default position is ‘what do I know about this subject?’ but actually that’s the wrong way around most of the time. The more pertinent question is ‘What do the audience want from this subject?’ – if you imagine your audience leaving the room after you’ve spoken, what have they learned, what do they know now, what did they get out of it? Think about what is important to them in that moment, and build the presentation from there – if necessary going and doing more research beforehand, so you can talk more authoritatively about what matters to them.
3. The rule of three (there might be something in it)
I’ve heard many times now that we remember things most easily in groups of three. There’s a lot of it about – 3 act plays, stories with a beginning, a middle and an end etc. Presentations-wise, it’s relevant because the audience will likely only remember 3 things from your presentation, so you need to make sure these are the most important three! If you’re completely stuck for a structure, try the 3:3:3 method – three main parts of your presentation, each divided into three sub-sections, and if necessary each of those subsections divided into three as well.
4. Store your presentation in the cloud.
Of course every presenter takes their presentation along on a USB stick but USB sticks do break sometimes, and they’re small and easily lost. So a sensible back-up plan is to store your presentation in the Cloud, and of course the easiest way to store your presentation in the cloud is to email it to yourself. (Then it’s backed up twice! Once in your inbox, once in your sent box. )
5. Have a one-page cheat sheet.
Part of presenting well is being relaxed, and a lot of being relaxed (for me, certainly) is knowing exactly what you’re doing with the logistics of the day. So make a one page document with EVERYTHING you need to know in it: presentation start time, room number, directions to the venue, contact name and details, train self-ticket machine reference number, etc. – print it out and carry it with you, and email it to yourself so you can check it on your phone. You’re much more likely to arrive relaxed, on time, and focused.
6. Look everyone in the eye, then pick your favorites to come back to.
This is particularly useful for nervous speakers. Public speaking is about communication, and communication is better with eye contact. So I will try to literally look every member of the audience in the eye at least once, at least as far as I reasonably can. (After 5 rows or so, it’s hard to be specific.) During this time, I’ll notice a few people who are particularly receptive – they’re nodding emphatically, or smiling at what I’m saying – and I’ll come back to them throughout the talk, as a form of encouragement…
I don’t get nervous anymore, but even as a non-nervous person I like to see people on my side. (The flip-side of this idea is to work on the more indifferent members of the audience – or even hostile, but that doesn’t come up too often in our industry, thankfully – by focusing more explicitly on them.)
7. Remember if people are looking down at a screen and typing, it’s a compliment.
It can be disconcerting if you’re not a Twitter user, and you see people looking down at their phones rather than up at you. It might feel like kids ignoring what you’re saying and texting their friends.
But it could be a good thing! Your audience is invested in what you’re saying that they want to broadcast it to their network on Twitter. It’s also a way for them to take notes at the same time.
And of course, that means your words could be reaching a larger audience, which means your message is getting out there.
8. Have a Plan B for your intro and your outro.
It sounds obvious but knowing what your opening line is going to be is quite important. Sometimes people decide to with something like, “Hello everyone, my name is Ned, I’m from New York.”
But then the person introducing them says, “This is Ned, he’s from New York, so you really can’t use that one. So know what you’ll say if your planned opener is ruled out for whatever reason. The same goes with the closer.
If it’s covered in the questions for example, or if you finish surprisingly early and need some more material to call upon, have a relevant topic in mind in advance.
9. Listen very carefully, an introvert will say this only once…
Lots of people reading this will be introverts; A common characteristic is a desire to say stuff once. If it’s said, it’s done with, and it need not be said again.
But people giving a presentation should work to fight that instinct and make sure that they say the really important stuff (main arguments, big statements, statistics, quotes) at least twice to make sure the point gets across.
10. Think in Tweetbites.
You thought it was enough to think in memorable soundbites! Not anymore. For the maximum impact, your most important statements needs to be “Tweetable” so that your presentation is amplified beyond the walls of the room you’re in.
You’ve put hours of work into it, so why not double, triple or otherwise exponentially increase the audience for your key messages? Think in quotable, tweetable chunks (as long as that’s not actually to the detriment of your presentation, of course…).