Public speaking is a daunting thought for the vast majority of us, so in the light of my upcoming presentations (more info at end of post) I thought I’d brush up on my public speaking skills, especially considering the talent of the other speakers. Below I’ve gathered some public speaking / presentation tips from some of today’s most experienced talkers.
In Cameron Moll‘s article 20 tips for better public speaking, he states that:
“The art of speaking is roughly 51% entertainment, 49% meaty content.”
Your primary responsibility is to entertain a room full of people. This doesn’t necessarily equate to jokes and magic tricks, but it does mean that the content of your presentation, and the delivery of that content, should be compelling and engaging. Keeping the audience eyes’ on you rather than their laptops benefits both you and the audience.
Moll then continues on quoting other high profile speakers, such as Jeffrey Zeldman:
“Attendees will apologise for not understanding a talk, but will want an apology for a talk that’s too basic.”
Edward Tufte argues the same, as paraphrased by Phillip Kerman:
Match your presentation to the level of The New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Audiences don’t suddenly become dumber when they sit down to hear you speak — no reason to “dumb down” anything!
Master the 4 P’s of Presentations:
You might not need a word-for-word script, but prepare something. Make sure your story is compelling, entertaining and worth listening to.
You need to practice. Even veteran presenters practice. Make sure you at least read it out loud a few times to develop a good rhythm.
You need to speak clearly. There’s no room for mumbling in a presentation. Let me toss another P in there – Project. Speak clearly and firmly to get your point across.
You should always try to engage your audience. The sooner they feel like they’re part of what you’re doing, the better.
Use a Framework of Some Kind
I absolutely loathe the “I’m going to tell you this; I am telling you this; I told you this” method of presentations. We don’t watch movies that way. Only some books have a table of contents up front (fiction doesn’t do that often). It’s just not fun seeing the “Title, Agenda, About Me” method. We’re too used to it.
Instead, how about a framework like this (for example)?
- Ask your audience a question that frames the speech.
- Tell your audience how you’ll try and answer that question.
- Start with a personal or investigatory story.
- Drill down into the details of how the story applies to your presentation.
- Offer some takeaways or next-actions for this.
- Tell another personal or informational story.
- Repeat the drill down points, the takeaways, etc.
- Finish with a solid set of steps people can use to take action based on your presentation.
- Thread questions in earlier than the end.
This is one storytelling frame. You can do all kinds of other variations on the theme. For instance, what if you did something like this:
- Start with a question about a famous figure.
- Explain that your audience is there to help you figure out if that figure embodies the subject matter you’re covering.
- Ask them to consider the figure at every step in the presentation.
- And present…
Whichever framework you choose, make sure that you check in, frequently with your audience. Be sure they’re moving along with your presentation. If you see eyes glazing, react (either by livening up your speaking tone, or by noting where people start to glaze and fixing it in a subsequent effort). If you see enthusiasm, look at that person for inspiration. But always check in. Often.
Expert Presentation Tips
Continuing on from Brogan’s suggestions was this great list of presentation tips from Edward R. Tuftes, as summarised below:
- Never apologise
- Always provide a handout
- Audiences are precious: respect them
- Humour—make sure it’s on point, not nasty or gratuitous
- Do not use masculine pronouns—use plurals
- For complex information use: Particular, General, Particular
- Treat questions carefully
- Show your enthusiasm!
- Finish early
- Work hard
- Drink enormous amounts of water
See here for more public speaking
Public Speaking / Presentation Tips & Resources
Below are some further resources to help improve your next presentation.
- The Anatomy of Good Speech – Chris Brogan shares his tips & resources.
- Deliver A Speech Like Steve Jobs – A look at how ‘the man’ delivers his speeches.
- Public Speaking Do’s & Don’ts – Great tips from LifeHacker.
- 10 Fail Proof Tips For Delivering A Powerful Speech – Very to the point tips.
- 20 Tips for Better Presentations – by Cameron Moll
- Training The Butterflies – An interview with Scott Berkun
- How NOT to use Powerpoint – A humorous, yet useful look at how NOT to use Powerpoint.
- Note & Point – A great gallery of high quality slide show presentations.
- Presentation Zen – A blog on public presentations.
- TED – See other speakers in action.
- Public Speaking Anxiety Tips
My Speaking Engagements
As mentioned at the beginning, the reasoning behind this post was in light of my two upcoming presentations, as outlined below.
PR Advanced: Brand Yourself – Saturday 27th February 2010
The first presentation, coming up this weekend is for the PR Advanced Brand Yourself conference, being held at Boston University. I’ve titled my talk “The Art of Online Self Promotion: Branding, Blogging & Social Media“. The other speakers include those from Boston Red Sox, JetBlue Airways, Dunkin’ Brands, Wholefoods and many more… just one of the reasons I needed to up my game. I am some what nervously looking forward to the experience.
Update 1/3/2010: The conference was a success!
You can read the wrap-up of the conference here.
NYC College Of Technology – Thursday March 4th
The second presentation, will be the following week and will be a bit less formal and is being held at the NYC College of Technology. The talk will be quite similar, with some Q&A at the end.
Update: 8/3/2020 – Photos + Video
You can see some photos from my talk over on Facebook. A video will soon follow.
If you are interested in me doing a talk at your next event, please do get in contact.
Have you got any speech / presentation tips to share?
Sheep Wolf photo by Ajq82.