The truth is….if you want to go places in this life that are interesting, you are going to have to speak in public at some point. My husband, Ruben, who is a world-class musician, dedicated to his craft of playing music (not talking!) and even he has to speak in public (in his second language!). C-Suite leaders have to speak well and engage different kinds of audiences in public. Same for project managers, vice-presidents, cultural innovators, community changers and anyone committed to the road less traveled. It’s just part of life.
The main thing is to stand up and just say it. However, here are 21 details you can reference to help you bedazzle your ADD/ADHD and otherwise overwhelmed audience. Seriously.
1. Don’t schedule anything unpleasant during the hours before you present.
Before you enter the room, recall a pleasant event or happy memory. That will lighten up your face.
2. Act excited to be there.
Not a general “I’m happy to be alive” but rather a “I’m excited to be here in this place with you to talk about my topic.”
Listening to your pre-presentation playlist can help you get in the right mental state. Here is my pre-presentation playlist.
3. In your mind, send some positive energy to anyone who looks lost or distracted.
Maybe they have something going on in their lives that’s draining their life force. We all know how that feels.
4. Dress up more than usual.
If dressing for the part interests you, read this.
5. Inhale and exhale slowly down to your toes right before you walk in the room.
6. Pull yourself up and try to be 0.5 inches (or 1 cm) taller.
Smile more than you think is necessary, or even prudent. Smiling makes you feel better and raises the energy in the room. People like smiles. It’s said the Beatles smiled more than any other rock band.
8. Introduce yourself and share a “not many people know this” about you.
Expertise + a dash of vulnerability = totally irresistible
9. Tell them why you’re presenting.
Even if everyone already knows. I promise you, most of them have no idea or they forgot. In any case, it helps to be reminded.
Magical phrases for this include:
I’m sharing my topic so that you can …
The reason my topic is important to you is …
What this means to you is …
10. Tell them what your topic means to you personally.
11. Say something surprising-but-true about your topic.
That will make them feel like insiders, or even your co-conspirators.
12. When someone asks a question, comment on what a great question that is.
Either you answer it, or ask them to wait because you’re about to get to it. Make it abundantly clear that you are delighted with the question…. even if you don’t know the answer. In that case, that’s your excuse to get back in touch with everyone, probably with an email answering the question.
13. Do not save questions for the end.
That always makes the closing awkward because people don’t know when it’s really over.
14. When someone asks a complex question, or related to a complex topic, ask them if you’ve answered the question adequately.
15. If no one is asking questions, stop and ask them what they think.
Give the audience the chance to get involved.
16. Use an interesting metaphor.
A client recently put the price of what he sold in the equivalent number of Happy Meals. I think it was the price of 3,000 of them. It was totally appropriate to his audience and well played.
Using a metaphor forces a shift in their thinking which pulls them deeper into your presentation.
17. Don’t try to channel Jerry Seinfeld.
If you tell a joke, it has to relate to you, your topic or your audience. Jokes are not essential to a fabulous talk.
Being real is what’s essential. Usually that involves humor, but not necessarily jokes. Your wit is always welcome.
18. As much as you can, look people in the eye in all parts of the room.
Start with the people in front on one side of the room, work your way to the back and then to the front of the room on the other side.
19. Tie in a celebrity to your topic.
People LOVE celebrities. It doesn’t have to be a film star. Think sports, local news, business rock star.
For example, with the topic of advanced materials, you don’t automatically think of Lady Gaga. But you could tie that in to one of her costumes. Or maybe the materials used in some famous yacht or sailboat or plane. Tie in a celebrity and watch your audience light up with delight.
20. Aim at finishing 10% early.
That means if your presentation is for 10 minutes, take 9. If it’s for an hour, take 48. The gift of time is always appreciated at work.
If you’re not the chatty time and don’t need but half the time allotted, that is MORE THAN FINE. Do not talk for the sake of talking.
21. End with a SHARP. (Story, Humor, Analogy, Reference or Picture.)
It’s easy to be so happy to get to the end of your talk that you can lose energy for the ending. Don’t do it! Plan your ending with care. You could start by recapping your main points and then Bam — a quote, story, anecdote or even a provocative question.
No matter how you feel about your talk, act like it was the best ever. Your audience is largely taking cues from you about what to feel about your presentation.