As a leader, speaking is part of the job, or at the very least should be. But giving a talk can be daunting, even for those who have done it many times before. Here are our tips for delivering a speech that keeps audiences enthralled, while communicating everything you need to.
You Talkin' To Me?
Your audience is a key factor in what you're presenting, and how. Presenting to a room of subject matter experts requires a different approach from presenting to marketers or career hopefuls. When you know who you're targeting, you can shape the length, style, and tone of your presentation accordingly.
Consider what it is that your audience cares about, and don't waste time telling them about things that aren't relevant or of interest to them. Their attention is crucial, and you can lose it faster than you can say, Jack Robinson.
When you understand your audience, you can understand how best to reach them.
What Exactly Are You Trying to Say?
The hardest thing about communication is actually doing it. Too often people fail to get their message across - even when they're confident that they have. The best thing you can do for your presentation is to take a step back and think long and hard about precisely what you want to communicate. Once you know this, you can start to build a compelling story around it - one that doesn't muddle your key takeaway.
A related exercise is to consider your goal as a speaker. Why exactly are you speaking, and what are you hoping to achieve through doing so? Is your goal to share your success story, encourage people to purchase a product, or to inspire a team to improve a process? Your goal and your key takeaway should seamlessly complement each other.
Now it's time to bring your speech to life by anchoring it in personal experience. No two people have the exact same perspective, so this is your opportunity to put your personal stamp on the story you want to tell. Begin with a powerful anecdote that connects back to your overall theme or goal, then take the time to explain the relevance of this anecdote. This will also help create an emotional connection with your audience - and the art of great public speaking is all about building that connection.
When working through your speech, ensure that there's both energy and diversity in your delivery. This may mean supplementing your speech with mixed media, or simply adjusting your tone to suit your audience's response. Other approaches to mixing it up to include taking questions or running spontaneous polls.
While knowing what you're going to say matters, don't stick too closely to the script. Give yourself enough flexibility to adjust your delivery to suit your audience, and ensure that you have room to elaborate on a point - or skip over others - depending on how they're responding.
Rehearse Your Delivery
Finally, don't go into your presentation cold. Rehearse your speech at home, in the mirror and with someone you trust. Find the parts that don't quite work and adjust them. This could be at the content level, or even at the word level - we all have words and phrases that we stumble over!
The goal is to come across as relaxed, authoritative and knowledgeable, so keep at it until you can deliver your speech in a way that sounds as natural as possible. Plus, knowing your speech inside and out will make those stage jitters much easier to manage.
Stay tuned for part 2 in this series: Tips for Creating High-Impact Conference Presentations.