For some people, speaking in public is straightforward and easy, whereas for others it’s a real trial. Whichever category you fall into, you only have 60 seconds, the first 60 seconds, to grab the attention of your audience. Beyond that, and unless you do something astonishing, the people you are speaking to are likely to become more interested in their smartphone or tablet than your presentation. So here are three winning tips for ensuring your talk is not a flop.
The importance of your first words
You need to get into what you are talking about quickly and positively. Avoid phrases such as “as you know” or “I hope to be able to convince you”, which merely cast doubt on your expertise and skills. Put on your best smile (a genuine one – don’t overdo it), look at your audience and launch straight into your subject. There’s no point in beating about the bush: tell them what you’re here for, what your plan is and make sure you go for an introduction that will grab their attention: a startling statistic, a clever reference to a TV show or even an ad hoc mini-survey with the audience (“How many of you…”) – something that will get them involved from the start of your talk.
You’re nervous, so turn it to your advantage
Don’t hide that fact that you’re nervous. Trying to disguise your stress will only make it seem worse. So you will find yourself concentrating on your jitters rather than getting your message across. If you start by telling them that you’re nervous, your audience will feel you have taken them into your confidence and in turn they will take you to their hearts (at least most of them will). Especially if you admit your stage fright with a dash of humour.
Put some rhythm into your speech
Not just in what you’re saying, but the way in which you’re saying it. To do that, you need to work on modulating your tone of voice so that it isn’t monotonous and boring. Play with silences. Do the same with your body: don’t be afraid to use gestures in your presentation. But don’t go overboard! As for the content of your message, you should state the crux of what you have to say, then say it again and, in an ideal world, tell your audience a third time: this is what I’m going to say, this is me saying it, and then this is me telling you what I said again. Use metaphors and visual comparisons – your audience will find it easier to remember what you are saying. And punctuate your speech with facts and examples. This will make it more to-the-point and easier to digest.
Final detail: make sure you always keep to the timing set. Ending on time is a mark of respect for your audience.