Tips for public speaking
These tips and ideas have been put together after many years experience delivering a wide range of presentations.
Ask yourself...These questions are to get you thinking and prepared:
- What speaking have you done in the past?
- What size audiences have you worked with before?
- What is the nature of the presentation you are about to do?
- What is the size and nature of your audience?
- What is the objective for your audience?
- Will you be using PowerPoint or another presentation medium?
- Who will be putting your slides together? And what is their skill level?
- Are you familiar with using PowerPoint?
- What equipment are you using?
- What is the room like?
Getting the delivery right
The secret is always going to be good preparation of your material. We normally work on a ratio of 5 to 1 as a minimum. That is, to deliver one hour of presentation requires a minimum of five hours of preparation.
- Allow yourself time to practice and rehearse what you're going to say.
- Practice standing and speaking to groups of people at every possible opportunity.
- Pick on a friendly audience first i.e. friends or family. Then progress to work colleagues and then outsiders.
- First impressions are really going to make a difference. Be smart but wear things that are appropriate to your audience.
Prepare your room
- Be at your venue well before the starting time.
- Think about acoustics, lighting, seating, tables, and positioning of your equipment.
- Be certain to tape any cables to the floor.
- If you're not familiar with using projectors or sound equipment, always consult a professional.
- Always insist on using a remote control mouse for a computer presentation and a tie-clip microphone if you are using a speaker system.
- Check all equipment in advance. In particular check how the microphone stand works and that the screen is at the correct height for everyone to see.
- If possible, place your PC where you can see the display without having to look behind you at the projected image. This will help you to maintain eye contact with your audience.
- A flipchart is always useful unless you are presenting to a very large audience. If you are right handed put the flipchart on stage left and vice versa. That way your audience can see what you are writing.
- Have several marker pens available. Check that they work and that they are all strong colours. Remember that some colours (e.g. blue and black) may be difficult to differentiate from a distance. Some colours (e.g. green) may be difficult to see at all.
- Try to greet people as they arrive. Just a few seconds contact will help to build rapport and give you ways to involve your audience in your presentation. For example, "I was talking to Bill just before we started and he said..."
- If using overhead transparencies put these into frames. This will stop the heat from distorting them.
- Have your transparencies in order in a ring binder. Make certain that they are the right way up for putting straight onto the projector.
- Do not switch off the projector whilst changing each slide. Your audience knows what you are doing and it is simply irritating to keep switching the light on and off. If your slides are in frames they should be easy to put onto the projector and line up exactly.
- If what you are saying is no longer relevant to the slide on screen then remove that slide or switch the projector off.
- If you are using PowerPoint avoid "death by PowerPoint"!
- Keep slides simple.
- Avoid excessive detail.
- Avoid fancy or random slide transitions.
- Slides should be an aid to your presentation not a lot of notes for people to read on screen.
- Keep to a small number of bullet points on each slide. Either show all the points at once and just talk about a couple of them or bring up the points one at a time and talk through each one as it comes up.
- Use blank bullets to help you know when a slide is at an end.
- Avoid clipart that is cheesy, transitions that are gimmicky and weird sound effects. We all know how clever PowerPoint is. Don't let it distract your audience away from you.
- If you need to bring several different presentations together (for example if you have more than one presenter at your event), then create an opening slide with hyperlinks. This will maintain the formatting of individual presentations.
- If you think that additional detail may possibly be needed but it depends on what your audience thinks. Then a hyperlink might help here as well.
- If you are organising an event, insist that presenters send you their PowerPoint presentation in advance.
- Think about your audience and if they need to take notes or refer to something during your presentation.
- If you are going to give out copies of your slides it is usually best done at the end of your presentation. Otherwise, people are reading ahead of you and not listening.
- Speak as though you are speaking to just one person. After all, each member of your audience is listening to just one person.
- Maintain eye contact with your audience as much as possible. And try to make eye contact with everyone in your audience at least once.
- Try to relax. You may need to speak a little slower than normal and project your voice a little more. But keep the variety in your tone and pace of delivery. Ask us about some exercises to help you practice this.
- Most people are very respectful of anyone who has the courage to stand up and make a presentation. Public speaking is the number one fear - even more so than death!
- Don't be afraid to move around. Some presenters have developed a style that is all about movement.
Work out if you are prepared to take questions at any time or only at the end. Let your audience know what is expected of them.
Be prepared for different reactions
Some people express their enthusiasm for what you're saying in a very visible way. They may be nodding their head or smiling. Others may appear very quiet and not show any sign of enthusiasm. Don't worry. Audiences vary a lot. Sometimes when people are very quiet they are simply concentrating on you. There can be regional variation in audience reactions. People in London are much more likely to show their feelings than people in Scotland.
The unheard song
Unless you are giving the same presentation over and over again, no one will have ever heard what you are going to say before. So don't worry about making a mistake. If you drop a clanger simply move on. If the audience hasn't noticed then there's no need to apologise.
Your presentation should have a hook. This will usually be in the title. It's an advertisement for what you are going to do and is to get people's interest. titles that we've used include "How to get stinking rich!" and "Not all bosses are B*******!"
Prepare some notes in advance for whoever is going to introduce you. You can make yourself sound as good as you like since you're not the person that's actually going to be saying it.
The first 20 seconds are critical
All of these may be ways of making a memorable first impression:
- A powerful quote
- A reference to something special about your audience or the room that you're in
- A question
Get your audience involved early on
Give them something to think about or get involved with early on. It lets them know that this isn't going to be just another boring old presentation.
Well-handled and appropriate props can be great. Practice using any props in advance.
Audiences love stories.
Don't get drawn into an argument
If someone's perception is different to your own, simply acknowledge that they are right. Suggest that you talk about the issue afterwards and try to work out a solution for them then.
Practice your presentation in real time. It is very rude and annoying to run over time. Be prepared to cut your presentation short if you are running out of time. You may do this by having something at the end that is of interest but not essential. That way, no one will be disappointed if you cut off two or three slides from the end.
Ask the event organisers if they are going to be using some sort of feedback mechanism. If not, then take along your own. Keep it fairly simple. Put it out in advance and ask people to fill it in before they leave.
Make sure that you've left your details with people for them to contact you. If you can, create some incentive for them to contact you afterwards.
Is it important to collect details of who has attended?
If so, then organise some sort of prize draw. You could do this based on the feedback forms or maybe on business cards. Give people a reasonable incentive and they'll give you their details
Building a back end
How are you going to follow up your presentation? Here are some ideas.
- If anyone has requested follow up then ask him or her for a business card and make a note on the card of what it is that they need.
- Have some samples of your books, CDs etc that people can buy from you.
- Record the session and offer to send people a copy of the recording.
Enjoy yourself. And don't be afraid to have fun with your audience. But avoid trying to be funny through joke telling unless you're very confident that it will work.
After living on adrenaline during the build up, you may feel quite subdued afterwards. So, just allow yourself some time to relax and think things through.
If you need help with any aspect of your presentation then please do contact us
Getting an audience
If you need help with attracting an audience then please read our "How to get bums on seats" tipsheet.