So you’ve got to give a presentation. Whether you’re a longtime speaker or are preparing one for the first time, you’ve got some work ahead of you to make sure that your presentation is informative, engaging, and relevant to your audience.
Naturally, you start by doing your research on the topic and the audience to which you’ll be speaking. You then create compelling content, practice extensively, and pick out your best power outfit for the day of the presentation. Finally, you go through your mental checklist: Body language? Check. Remember eye contact? Check. Breathing exercises? Check. An extra battery for your laptop? Check. Great – you’re halfway there!
However, there are some rules of public speaking that are often overlooked – or even forgotten – that must be implemented in order to create and deliver a presentation that gets your point across, makes you look like an expert, and is valued by your audience. These rules are not often part of the generic “how to give a good presentation” tip sheets, which is why they tend to get overlooked. However, NOT doing them makes the difference between a presentation that’s simply passable, and a presentation that is professional, memorable, and downright impressive.
The next time you have to make a presentation, make sure that you come across as an expert by following these four forgotten rules of public speaking:
Forgotten Rule #1: Show Up At Least One Hour Early
A speaker should be ready and waiting for his or her audience – never the other way around. There are a multitude of reasons to show up at least one hour early. You’ll have a chance to set up all your equipment; get technical help if required; and get a feel for the area in which you’ll be speaking. You’ll also be able to clear out any obstacles that may distract your audience and obstruct your space, like tables, chairs, extension cords or anything else that you might trip on.
Traffic, parking, snowstorms, or subway delays will all conspire to stress you out – and you certainly don’t want to add any unnecessary stress on the day of your presentation. Once you arrive and your equipment is set up, you’ll be able to relax and review your presentation. And if you can, greet members of your audience as they arrive. Once you meet them, they’re not strangers anymore and it’s always easier to present to a room full of friends than a room full of strangers.
Forgotten Rule #2: Murphy’s Law is Waiting For You
Murphy’s Law states that “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” And Murphy loves to sabotage unprepared speakers. Think carefully of all the things that can go wrong, and be ready for them. Arrive early. Bring an extra copy of your presentation on a memory key. Print out your slides to give as handouts in case you can’t connect with the projector. If you’re bringing a laptop, bring an extra battery. Be ready to give your presentation without the benefit of your slides in case of technical failure. Make sure there’s water nearby in case your mouth gets dry when you speak. A backup plan is your best defense against Murphy’s Law.
Forgotten Rule #3: Perception Is Everything
Your audience will be checking you out before you speak, throughout your presentation, and long after you’ve finished. Yet that doesn’t seem to stop some speakers from frowning, or looking worried or overly nervous before they speak. Even if you don’t feel relaxed, you must make the effort to look like you are. Your audience is expecting to get something out of your presentation, and it’s up to you to fulfill their expectations as best you can. Showing your anxiety on your face serves no purpose other than to show your audience that you’re not confident, and that, in turn, makes them less confident that you know what you’re talking about. When all else fails, ‘fake it ’til you make it.’ And you WILL make it.
Forgotten Rule #4: Why So Noisy?
Eradicate all accessories that make noise when you move. For men, this means taking all keys and loose change out of your pocket. Women must choose jewelry and other accessories carefully. If bracelets make noise when they touch each other, wear only one. Beware of large earrings that take emphasis away from your face. Bold colors or designs can potentially distract an audience as well.
So the next time you have to make a presentation, keep these four forgotten rules in mind, and you’ll impress your audience every time.
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Suzannah Baum, owner of Ideal Communications, http://www.idealcommunications.ca, is a public speaking trainer, presentation coach and writer who believes that everyone can be an exceptional communicator. She has helped business leaders, entrepreneurs and academics unleash their ultimate public speaking potential. Consistently recognized for her ability to create an encouraging, trusting atmosphere that enables her clients to enhance their speaking style in a very short time, her high-rated training style gets the job done quickly and effectively.
Currently, Suzannah gives seminars at corporations, universities and various non-profit organizations, and provides coaching to individuals who must deliver informational and persuasive presentations with confidence, clarity and power. A member of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers, a prizewinning speaker, an advanced Toastmaster and popular club mentor, she is also a past Club President and active member in her local Toastmasters chapter. Her published articles on the topic of public speaking have appeared in http://www.womenentrepreneur.com and Masters In Action.
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