Whether it’s a keynote speech for thousands or a sales meeting for a dozen, we’ve all seen speakers who keep the audience hanging on every word—and those who have their audiences counting the minutes until they can leave the room.
Honing your presentation skills is important to become a more effective public speaker and advance in your career. Whether you’re a seasoned executive, rising professional or emerging entrepreneur – make your next engagement (and every one after that) informative, educational, inspirational, and most of all, memorable.
We recognize and understand the importance of capturing the attention of the audience. But what’s really involved in making sure we keep their attention and close on a high. We’ve all seen presentations that have kept us captivated and wanting more. Though their delivery may appear effortless, hard work, practice and strategy are generally poured into a successful presentation. While some may be more naturally inclined, most have to develop the skills necessary to become an effective speaker.
Your presentation skills require practice. So how do we get there?
I asked our resident presentation skills expert, Patricia Fripp a Hall of Fame professional speaker who has delivered 1000’s of speeches and coached 1000’s of clients just like you, to master their presentations.
Engage the hearts and minds of your audience with powerfully persuasive presentations when you master these presentation skills:
Tips for your talk
Think about the positive results of delivering a presentation, as this may motivate you to work through your fears. Take time to work through these exercises to help you channel any nervousness you may have into energy.
Physical preparation: Warm up and relax your body and face
- a. Stand on one leg and shake the other. When you put your foot back on the ground, it’s going to feel lighter than the other. Now, switch legs and shake. You want your energy to go through the floor and out of your head. This technique is often used by actors. Don’t forget, if you’re wearing high heels take them off.
- b. Shake your hands…fast. Hold them above your head, bending at the wrist and elbow and then bring your hands back down. This will make your hand movements more natural.
- c. Warm up your face muscles by chewing in a highly exaggerated way. Do shoulder and neck rolls. Imagine you’re eye level with a clock. As you look at 12, pull as much of your face up to 12 as you can; now move it to 3, then down to 6 and finally over to 9.
All of these exercises serve to warm you up and relax you. Those exaggerated movements make it easier for your movements to flow more naturally.
Preparation is a key element to making a solid presentation. Here are a few tips to help you master your presentation skills that will make your presentation effective.
The opening lines of your presentation
Psychologists have proven that the first and last 30 seconds of any speech have the most impact, so give the open and close of your talk a little extra thought, time and effort. Do not open with “Ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be here tonight.” It’s wasting too much of those precious 30 seconds.
A humorous story or inspirational vignette that relate to your topic or audience are sure ways to get an audience’s attention. However, it may take more presentation skill than you possess in the beginning. It’s safer and more effective to give the audience what you know.
Opening a presentation with a joke or funny story is the conventional wisdom.
Before you do, ask yourself these questions about your joke:
- Is it appropriate to the occasion and for the audience?
- Is it in good taste?
- Does it relate to me (my product or service) or the event or the group? Does it support your topic or its key points?
A good way to open your speech is by giving the audience the information they most want to hear. By now, you know the questions you hear most from potential clients, so put the answers to those questions in your speech.
Naturally, there are a number of approaches to being powerful and immediately engaging from your first words. Here are three of my favorite options:
- A brief, compelling intro story and a question: “As a brilliant consultant, what would you have done in this circumstance?”
- A rhetorical question: “If I were to ask you, ‘Is 2015 going to be the year you double your sales?’ Perhaps you’d say yes? Perhaps you’d say no? Most likely you’d say, ‘Patricia, I would love it to be, can you tell me how?’ Well, congratulations. You’re in the right place, at the right time, and in the next 60 minutes we will look at 14 specific ways you can double your business.”
- An interesting statistic or a little known fact from the audience’s world: My favorite example was the time I was booked to speak to 350 Seventh-day Adventists pastors about how to design and deliver a more charismatic sermon. Now, I am smart enough to know people are going to be looking at the program thinking, “Hmm, she’s the only person on the program who isn’t a minister. How can she tell me how to write a better sermon? I write one every week. I bet she isn’t even a Seventh-day Adventist.” So I walked on stage and said, “465 times in the Bible, it says ‘It came to pass.’ It doesn’t say ‘It came to stay.’ And unless your sermon is well constructed, artfully crafted, and charismatically delivered, it will not come to stay in the hearts, minds, and lives of your congregation.” When you hear 350 “Amens,” you know you’ve got their attention.
The right opening is key to a successful presentation; choose yours thoughtfully.
Before you close, review your key ideas, challenge the audience to take action based on the content of your presentation, and close on a high. Preferably your close will tie back into your opening theme in a circular way. Finish with something inspirational that ties into your theme.
If you’re going to take questions, say, “Before my closing remarks, are there any questions?”
Know your closing like the back of your hand. Remember, you last words linger.
Outline for your speech
There are two basic outlines that work well for the beginning speaker.
Then-now-how outline. “This is where I was. This is where I am. This is how I got here.” This outline will help you tell the audience who you are and why you are qualified to speak on your chosen topic.
Ask yourself these three vital questions:
- Who is the group to whom you are speaking?
- How long will your talk be?
- Why have they asked you to speak?
The question-and-answer format. Think of the questions prospects, clients and friends ask you about your business. Pose the first question to the audience and answer it for them in a conversational manner, just like you would to a prospective client. You may have never given a speech before, but you certainly have answered questions.
Writing your speech – The Fripp Speech Model
I don’t believe in sitting down and writing a speech. Instead, gather and collect ideas that can build your speech. If you’re going to be addressing a group in the next few weeks, keep a notepad and jot down ideas and situations that relate to your talk. When you actually write your talk, you’ll have lots of material to fit into your outline.
When you writing your speech you need to make sure you connect with your audience. In a 45-minute speech I may use the first 3-5 minutes for the rapport building.
What should you do during this time? That is completely up to you, but the one thing you should not do is make any significant points. It’s not the time for that yet. This time is simply used for one thing – to connect! I call it the most important part of the speech because… If you do not connect up front, your audience will not be around (mentally or sometimes physically) for the remainder of your speech no matter how powerful it may be.
Here are some suggestions for things you can do during these first few make-or-break-your-speech moments as you learn to master your presentation skills:
- Give thanks to the people who brought you in to speak and mention them by name.
- Talk about something interesting that happened on the way to the engagement (perhaps while traveling).
- Share something funny that one of the participants said to you and call them by name to make a greater connection.
- Share a humorous (self-deprecating) story without attaching a point to it. This works great because your humility will attract the audience to you.
- Speak about the city or even the specific location of the event.
- Do a very quick activity (15-30 seconds) that involves them in some kind of physical movement such as crossing their arms and then re-crossing them with the opposite arm on top. These types of activities work because they make a kinesthetic connection with the audience.
- If the group’s energy is already sky-high, go ahead and do a call and response, or at least ask them how they are doing and possibly put your hand to your ear so that they will respond verbally.
- Mention something positive about the speakers who spoke before you, if there were any speakers
- Do whatever builds a connection without making any points.
Why is this so important? Check out the Aristotle quote:
Aristotle wrote, way back around 350 BC, about the importance of “putting the audience into a certain frame of mind.” The get-to-know-you time empowers you to put the audience into a certain frame of mind while establishing a solid connection with them.
Presenting the speech
Do not read your speech; write key points in bold.
Unless you rely a lot on your notes, don’t stand behind the lectern throughout your entire talk. It puts a barrier between you and the audience and they feel it. However, if you feel more secure standing behind the lectern, do not lean on it.
The introduction: Write your own introduction. Use your resume as a guide, but customize it to fit the topic on which you’re speaking. Consider these ideas: How long have you been involved in the community? What makes you an expert? Do you have a connection to the organization?
Handouts: Develop a page detailing your key points. Or if you’ve had an article published, make copies for audience members. Make sure the handout includes your name, address, telephone number, e-mail and Web address.
Business cards: If your goal is to develop business contacts, always collect business cards from audience members. You can offer to send additional information, articles or tip sheets to them. Or you can offer a door prize (this can be a product you sell or certificate for service) and ask everyone to drop their business cards in a box from which you or the program chair will draw the winner (or winners) at the end of your talk.
The business cards give you prospects with whom you can follow up later.
Speaking before a group of strangers or in front of your peers can be intimidating, but keep focused on the positive impact the presentation will have on your business reputation and your bottom line.
Don’t expect to be a magnificent speaker the first time out. Your goal is to present the most valuable information possible to the members of the audience. Think of it as the beginning of many long-term relationships.
Mastery of your presentation skills take time and lots of practice.
Presentations are an inherent part of today’s workplace. Having the confidence and being able to communicate effectively is an indispensable skill, which is why more employers are investing to train their people to become engaging communicators and master the necessary presentation skills. These days, no matter the position or department you belong to, you are expected to stand up and be able to present at some point. like it or not, presentation skills have an impact in the workplace. Creating and delivering a presentation that engages hearts and minds does take work and creativity, but with easy access to the best presentation skills advice and working on your presentations will help you in the workplace and in your everyday life.
Remember to Always Be your Best,
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XTRAcredits is the yellow pages for everything and anything continuing education and professional development credit related. XTRAcredits.com offers a catalogue of pre-approved on-demand professional development courses for continuing education credits anytime and anywhere.
XTRAcredits is the yellow pages for everything and anything continuing education and professional development credit related. XTRAcredits.com offers a catalogue of approved on-demand professional development courses for continuing education credits anytime and anywhere.
Lisa is the founder of XTRAcredits Group Inc. As a Continuing Education Program catalyst, I reveal the power of your expertise from the workplace and the stage to the different professional audiences around the world. My no-nonsense approach as the go-to expert for continuing education delivers results.
More About Patricia Fripp
Hall of Fame keynote speaker, executive speech coach, sales presentation skills expert, and author, Patricia Fripp simplifies and demystifies the process of preparing and presenting powerful, persuasive presentations. Kiplinger’s Personal Finance identified her presentation training as one of the best investments you can make in your career. Called “one of the 10 most electrifying speakers in North America” by Meetings and Conventions, Patricia delivers high-content, entertaining, dramatically memorable presentations. The first female president of the National Speakers Association, she is now virtually everywhere. Patricia is a Faculty Expert at XTRAcredits as a subject matter expert. Learn essential new skills and accelerate your career while maintaining your professional accreditation.