We’ve all heard that when it comes to facing your fear of public speaking or fear of death, most people would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy. For the most part, people are scared of public speaking because they focus on the potential negative outcomes. Instead, they should be thinking of all the opportunities that come as a result of a great presentation.
A great presentation comes down to good public speaking. Don’t worry, you don’t have to watch every Steve Jobs speech or TED Talk to figure out what they’re doing right. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite techniques used by all the best presenters today. These tips will help you:
- Engage and captivate your audience
- Deal with anxiety
- Exude confident while you present
1. Use rhetorical devices
There’s no doubt, Steve Jobs knew how to give a presentation. What made his speeches so memorable and enjoyable was his use of rhetorical devices. And some of his most powerful methods revolved around repetition. Here’s what I mean:
- Repeat a word or phrase at the beginning of each clause. Example: “Everyday, every night, in every way, I am getting better and better.”
- Repeat a word or phrase at the end of each clause.
Example: “I’m a Pepper, he’s a Pepper, she’s a Pepper, we’re a Pepper. Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too? Dr. Pepper.”
- Repeat conjunctions in a series of coordinated words, phrases, or clauses.
Example. “We have the tent and the sleeping bags and the marshmallows and the chocolate and the graham crackers.
- Slogans—Repeat phrases or slogans throughout your presentation
I know it can feel a little unnatural to use these devices, but trust me, they work and will help your audience remember what you’ve said.
2. Interact with your audience
A recent study on attention spans during lectures showed the first lapses in audience attention happen within the first minute of a talk — the first minute!
Try interacting with your audience right off the bat to keep their attention. One of the best ways to get their attention is to ask them a question about themselves. For example, “Raise your hand if you’ve ever …”Another good way to interact with your audience during a webinar is to ask them to answer a poll question. Not only does this keep their attention, but it allows you to get real-time feedback and opinions on relevant topics.
3. Turn anxiety into excitement
An estimated 90% of the population struggle with a fear of public speaking to a certain degree. If you feel anxiety before a presentation, you should know you’re in good company.
But if that doesn’t calm you down, try saying three little words to yourself, “I am excited.” These three words help take you out of a threat mindset and put you in an opportunity mindset, which helps you think about all the good things that could happen if you do well. Since anxiety and excitement are so closely related, it’s much easier to get from anxiety to excitement than anxiety to calm. Studies found that people who said, “I am excited” performed 17% better than those who said nothing or tried to become calm.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to eliminate your anxiety; just redirect it.
4. Use voice dynamics
The best way to put your audience to sleep is to use the same cadence, vocal rhythm, pitch, tone, and gestures throughout your presentation. This technique also works with babies.
Keep your speech interesting by consciously varying your pitch, tone, volume, and pace.
It’s also important to pause. Presenters hate silence, but a pause within your speech can be very useful. Pausing before or right after an important point adds impact. Pause before your point to signal to the audience something important is coming. A pause afterword gives them time to let the message sink in. Plus it gives you an extra moment to collect yourself.
5. Prepare…more than you think you need to
Yes, we want you to rehearse your presentation over and over so you have it down cold, but we also have some other tips to help you polish your presentation:
- Record yourself – Video doesn’t lie. With a video recording, you’ll quickly be able to see weird facial expressions, bad posture, or out-of-control hand gestures that you need to correct before the live event.
- Practice with your co-presenters – Rehearsing with the other presenters will ensure that one person doesn’t monopolize the conversation. Use this time to decide who will talk about each point, which will help you avoid confusion during the webinar.
- Nail the transitions – Your transitions don’t need to be elaborate; you just need to make sure your presentation flows from one topic to the next in a logical way. When you jump between topics it’s harder for your audience to follow along and remember what you said.
- Time yourself – The only thing worse than going short on time is going over. Make sure you know how much time your audience needs to schedule for your webinar and leave time for a Q&A session.
6. Stand and use your hands
We’ve all heard the saying, “I think better on my feet.” It turns out there’s truth to that.
A recent study compared students who sat and students who were given standing desks, and it turns out that the standing students were able to focus better and longer than the sitting ones. As a presenter, you want to be on you’re A-game, and standing up is a great way to stay on your toes … literally.
If possible, get a standing desk for your webinars (check out our own webinar set up) so you can stand up and keep your hands free. If you speak using your hands, even if your audience can’t see you, you’re likely to speak with more energy.
7. Tell a story
Audiences remember stories better than they remember facts and figures. Neuroscience has proven that well-told stories let us into the speaker’s world, create empathy, and actually change our brain chemistry.
Tap into the power of story-telling by sharing a personal experience, a relevant story from history, or using a friend’s story. Not only will the audience enjoy your presentation more, but you will be able to remember a story much better when you’re presenting.
8. Focus on your audience
Instead of thinking about all the things you want to say, think about what the audience needs to hear. If you speak with the intent to tell your audience everything you know, you won’t be able to stay in the moment or be mindful of your audience.
The best presenters know how to be present with their audience—they focus exclusively on their audience’s needs rather than the desire to make themselves look good. In other words, the audience comes before the presenter.
9. Be confident…or at least fake it
I know, it’s so much easier said than done, but a little confidence can make all the difference in a presentation. And if you’re not confident presenting, pretend to be someone who is confident.
I’m a firm believer in “fake it ’til you make it.” But really, you have every reason to be confident. You’ve done your research, you’ve rehearsed, and you’re passionate about the topic. If you need another reason to be confident, here’s one from Maurice De Castro, “The human brain responds with unthinking compliance to presenters who speak with gravitas, authority, and credibility. Great presenters connect with their audiences because they have done their research and have something important to say that they are very knowledgeable about.”
10. Show your passion
People came to hear you speak, and they want to hear you speak passionately. Be energetic. Be conversational. Be yourself.
When you believe in your topic, it will translate to your audience. There’s no substitute for an authentic, genuine presentation from someone who knows what they’re talking about.
Now, you don’t have to master all these techniques today. Just choose a couple tips to work on for your next webinar, and once you have those down, add a couple more. The better you get at public speaking, the more confident you’ll become, which will lead to more successful webinars.