Speaking to a crowd, especially one comprised of your peers or potential clients, is a nerve wracking experience. All too often, a speaker will put all his/her effort into a PowerPoint with graphics worthy of James Cameron or distracting animations that spin, sparkle, and pop. As the speaker, you’re the focus. Here’s a few tips to keep your audience captivated:
When speaking in public there is always the temptation to plan a script. One of the biggest mistakes that a speaker can make is worrying about following the script, when they should focus on being engaging and informative. If you know your material and know your major talking points, then just let the visuals be secondary.
Consider the venue that you’re giving your presentation. Even when you’re speaking somewhere for the first time, try to get an idea of the room layout. This should affect how you prepare for the speech by adjusting your volume, projection, and eye contact to fit the type of room. In some cases, you may even want to tweak your presentation to suit the audience size.
Once you’re comfortable with the material you’ve outlined, it’s time to bring your game to a friendly audience that will offer constructive criticism. Speaking in front of your peers will help you transition from talking to yourself to talking to an audience. It’ll help you figure out which lines work and which don’t and will help you retain the audience’s attention.
It’s nice to have a PowerPoint with graphics to help convey your point, but you need to be the focus. In fact, when preparing a presentation, consider the chance that the projector will blow a bulb and you’ll have to fly solo. If you know your topic that well, and you can address all the points to convey everything you intended to without the PowerPoint, then you’ll capture the room’s attention.
After you finish your presentation, open the room up for questions and interaction. Obviously, don’t give a presentation on a topic you don’t know much about – audience members like to come up with challenging questions. If you don’t know an answer, it’s best to say “That’s a great question, meet me after the presentation and get me your email, I need to run that by my team.” Then, of course, be sure to follow up.