Tips for Better Public Speaking
If you are like many professionals, the fear of public speaking may be so overwhelming that the mere thought of standing before a group of prospects is enough to cause your belly to ache.
While we can’t necessarily cure stage fright, the tips in this article are designed to minimize your anxiety and help you become as relaxed as possible when your seminar event begins. Of course, joining your local Toastmasters International is also a great idea!
Develop a power opener. This could be a story about you or an experience you’ve had. It could be about current events or an anecdote to add “shock value.” It could be a statistic. Regardless of the method you choose, make sure it will help capture your audience’s attention within the first few minutes of your presentation. The objective during the opener is to settle the crowd and focus their attention on you. After you’ve presented your opener, introduce yourself and your company.
Tip: A good source for current events or statistics is USA Today. There is always a survey or consumer poll on the front page as well as in the money section that may be a good choice for developing your power opener.
After your power opener. Tell the audience why you are there and what you plan to accomplish. Introduce the evaluation form and explain its purpose. Make it clear that you are not there to sell them something, and the only thing you will ask of them is that they complete the evaluation form.
Tip: The audience will be thinking WIIFM — What’s In It For Me. Let them know early in the presentation what they will receive from the workshop.
Ask simple questions and respond simply to their questions. Controlling the group is critical. One long answer to a complicated participant question can throw you off track. Although you need to interact with the participants, keep your answers relatively simple, and if an answer needs a longer explanation, ask the participant to address it with you later. When you ask questions of your audience, a good strategy is to simply ask for a show of hands. For example, “raise your hand if you believe the economy is doing better today than it was last year.”
Tip: If you are asking for a show of hands, make sure that you raise your own hand. This will prompt more people to participate.
Ask the right questions. For most people, thinking of a question on the fly will not work. That’s why we recommend that you write down your questions in advance in your own workbook or storyboard manual. Then, when you come to that specific slide or image in your presentation, you will have the perfect question ready to ask!
Practice, practice, then practice again. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the financial industry or how many initials you have following your name. To deliver a powerful seminar, you must practice. That doesn’t mean reciting the presentation in your head. You need to deliver the seminar — using the actual words you will use with an audience — several times before you conduct the seminar in front of your live prospects. Give the presentation to your assistant, your spouse — even your dog, if it helps! Practicing the presentation over and over again will help you avoid reading the slide bullets verbatim to the audience — another big “no-no.”
Tip: If there is a podium in the room, do not stand behind it. This isn’t a lecture — this is an interactive financial seminar, and you need to be out among the audience and keeping their attention!
Record yourself on audiotape or videotape. Recording yourself is the best way to learn about your posture, body positioning, hand movements, gestures, eye contact, voice pitch, and more. Take the time to invest in a small camcorder or recording device and tape yourself. You will be amazed at how many times you say “umm,” adjust your tie, or flip your hair. Reviewing the tape can help you focus on problem areas and perfect your delivery skills.
One of the best quotes about public speaking is from Jerry Seinfield: “According to most studies, people’s number-one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means, to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
By incorporating these tips into your presentation, you may find that public speaking is easier, more enjoyable — and certainly preferable to death.