Whether you’re giving a big talk for the first time or the fiftieth, it can still be nerve-wracking to try and decide exactly what to say and how to say it. Public speaking isn’t something that comes easily to everyone, and even established pros sometimes find themselves choking up.
The topic can be unfamiliar, leading you to do a lot of research and making you sound too scripted, or it can be so familiar that you find yourself skipping sections which may be more necessary than you think.
Need to spice up your upcoming talk? These tips will help it be one that is discussed for years – and for good reasons:
1. Practice But Not Too Much
It seems obvious; when you’re nervous about something, you should practice, so that you can succeed. And this is true, but only to a certain point. Any athlete can tell you that there’s a point where you’ve over practiced, and you run the risk of ruining your game. The same thing is true with a talk or presentation.
If you practice to the point that it sounds like you’re reading off a card, or reciting a speech, then your audience isn’t going to be as interested. Practice your speech until you’re comfortable with what you’re saying, and then let it go.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
2. Offer Several Methods of Information Delivery
There’s an old saying that people remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, and 30% of what they see. The wisdom therefore goes that if you combine the senses, people will retain more information. For example, having someone describe the percentages of the population which performs a certain task along with showing a graph of the same information will help people retain that information.
In general, the information needs to be presented differently in each method. Reading someone a slide which they can also read themselves doesn’t help him to retain information. Elaborating on the information in the slide may.
The best way to get people to retain information is to give them something to do, but be careful with this, activities in big groups can quickly get tedious and annoying, and can eat up your time faster than you think.
3. Tone Down The Humorous Anecdotes
If you want to make your talk memorable, making people laugh seems like a good way to do it. The trouble is that making people laugh is harder than you think, and a misplaced joke can alienate a big portion of your audience. If you’re aiming to be funny, make sure that the only person you’re poking fun at is yourself.
Better yet, aim for friendly and personable; these traits crossover cultural borders better than humor, which can be incredibly specific.
4. Make Your Talk Actionable
Any professional level talk should include discussion of how the information you’re presenting is actionable to the people who are listening. You should come out early and tell them what they’re going to learn – within the first two minutes of your presentation, perhaps – and then make sure that they have the ability to implement this knowledge in their organizations or departments before your presentation is done.
For example, if you want to teach people better management techniques, you might choose a particular technique to focus on, such as offering positive feedback. Your talk breaks down motivational theory, why particular techniques work, and how to make positive feedback a business priority. You now have a basic structure for the learning that will be accomplished during your talk.
“It’s totally fine if you feel nervous and stammer a bit. If you give actionable, clear advice, people will forgive it all.” – Tim Ferriss
5. Make Sure You’re Accessible
Some people process information very quickly, and find that they have questions during the immediate Q&A period that follows your talk. Others may find themselves taking some time to churn the information you’ve presented, or may try to implement it and run up against a roadblock they didn’t anticipate.
Leaving them with a way to contact you and ask for additional advice can be a great way to make your talk feel more important and memorable, while also ensuring that they get the full benefit from your presentation.
Depending on your popularity, however, you may want to be clear how you’ll respond. If you say you will respond to each email promptly, and then never do, people will be frustrated. If you say that you’ll look at queries and respond to some in your weekly or monthly newsletter, however, you are setting a more reasonable expectation. Whatever you’re prepared to commit to, say that, but don’t overcommit.
Giving a talk shouldn’t be a scary or an upsetting proposition. Instead, it should be a chance for you to network within your industry, communicate on a topic about which you are passionate, and make connections within your community. Remember to enjoy yourself!