For most of us there can be nothing more terrifying than speaking in front of an audience, but many jobs require this as a vital skill and it can also help your career development. Improving your public speaking skills can also enable you to feel more confident when it comes to interview presentations. Here are some top tips to help you nail your next performance.
Determine your structure.
Your presentation should follow an essay format. Have an introduction to give an overview of your topic, a main body which details your arguments and research, and end with a conclusion to summarise your findings. Give the audience an opportunity to ask any questions so that any confusion can be clarified. This will also leave a positive impression with the audience.
Make sure you know if it is long enough or if you need to cut some out. The best way to ascertain this is to try and get someone to give you some constructive criticism. Practising in front of a group will make you feel more confident when the real thing comes along.
Prepare for obstacles.
If you are given a difficult question its fine to use humour to deal with it or equally ask if anyone else has something to say regarding their point. If you don’t know the answer, admit this and explain why. Don’t become defensive or negative.
Control your nerves.
Being nervous is always a big worry, but it’s important to remember that it shows you really care about what you’re doing. They also give you adrenaline which you need to energise your presentation. Try to make sure your paragraphs are clear and concise so your notes are easy to read, and have something to hold on to such as a chair or podium if you’re a bit shaky.
Don’t go overboard.
Only use visuals such as PowerPoint if they add something to what you’re saying. Avoid long paragraphs of information; figures and diagrams that you can explain are useful but just repeating what you’re saying is adds nothing to the presentation. Also, if you have to submit your material make sure you have new information to say in your presentation otherwise it’s pointless.
Check your body language.
You want to give a good impression so don’t use defensive gestures or poses such as clenched fists and standing with your arms folded. Smile and use hand gestures, but not too much as this can also be distracting. Walking around can be helpful, but again try to control this so as not to divert the attention of your audience.
Make sure that you can be clearly heard by everyone. Speak to the person furthest away and check that everyone can hear you. When nervous there is a tendency to rush so it is over quicker: try to avoid this and speak calmly. Using impressive words is useful in an essay but during a presentation it’s more important that your research is understood, so don’t include any complicated and unnecessary terms.
Tell a story.
Engage your audience and maintain their interest. If it fits, use a funny anecdote or an experience from your life that is relevant. This shows that you are adaptable, engaging and that you can think on your feet.
Show enthusiasm and conviction.
If you believe in what you’re saying the audience will feel that you are worth listening to and that you know what you’re talking about. If you sound bored then the audience will feel the same way too.
Maintain eye contact.
This is important in order to make the audience feel involved. Try to pick a few people to look at throughout, but do try to engage each section of the room at some point. Aiming your gaze just above the level of those at the back can work if you’re not in a tiered arena. Avoid looking down or staring at your notes.
So to improve your interview technique and open up more doors in terms of leadership opportunities, follow these steps to master the skill of public speaking. The most important thing to remember is to enjoy the experience and to give it your best shot!