4. Practice what you will say
It may seem obvious, but practice what you will say. It feels silly, but the more you do it the less it becomes so. Practice not just the words but how you will say them. People read your intention from your gestures. Consider what gestures you want to use, and choreograph your presentation. If you want to come across as open, open up your gestures. If you want to be seen as thoughtful, adopt the pose of the thinker. But you must practice this so it comes across naturally, not like a kid doing show and tell at kindergarten.
5. Don’t read to me
In case you haven’t heard, there is an epidemic of death by PowerPoint. Your PowerPoint slide is not a substitute for palm cards. Do not put every word you will say on the slide. Choose an image that prompts you to remember what you need to say, or an image that intrigues the audience.
If you must read to me, then read me something significant. If you feel you must have all the words on a slide, then pause so people can read the words for themselves. Then say what you want to say.
6. Focus on them, not you
Working with hyperconfident, powerful people, I am constantly surprised to find how much some of them dread public speaking. Consistently, they focus on themselves and their shaking voice, their wobbly knees and whether someone will find out that they are fake.
To calm your nerves, focus on the audience. The old advice of picturing them naked is just one device for doing this. I suggest you pay attention to the small signs that tell you they are listening and interested. When your focus is on them, the room and its energy, then you can give them what they want. As an aside, know you always have the option to say: “I don’t know—I’ll get back to you.” You don’t need to know everything. In the age of the internet most information is available with a quick Google search. People do not expect you to be the internet.
Take a moment upfront to clarify the audience’s ‘WIIFM’ (what’s in it for me). When you know what they want out of it, you know how to sell them rather than tell them.
7. Tell stories
People will forget facts. They remember stories. Tell a ‘once upon a time’ story or a ‘funny thing happened on the way to the forum’ story—like a case study. Make it relevant and follow the three-step formula:
1. Incident (what happened)
2. Point (the punchline or payoff)
3. Benefit (why I am telling this story)
Telling a story alone has an impact. Telling an enjoyable story and then making it relevant to the audience (the benefit) lifts you to professional level. If you can read, illustrate, and engage your audience, you’re well on the way to convincing everyone.