Public speaking is all about performance. Holding the interest of your audience throughout your presentation is an area documented in any public speaking course. Once you’ve learned ways to prepare your notes, conquered your fear of public speaking and brushed up your presentation skills, suggestions on great ways to captivate your audience is the next step.
While captivating an audience is a skill that takes years to develop, there are some simple ways to quickly improve your public speaking and presentation skills from the TED Talks.
- Always give the audience something to take home.
Always provide something specific the audience can do almost immediately. No matter how inspiring your message, every audience appreciates learning a tangible way they can actually apply what they’ve learned to their own lives. Inspiration is great, but application is everything.
- Don’t defer answering questions.
If a question pops up in the middle of your presentation, that’s awesome: Someone is listening! So seize the opportunity. If you would have addressed it in a later slide, skip ahead.
- Ask a question you can’t answer.
Asking questions to engage the audience often feels forced. Instead ask a question you know the audience can’t answer and then say, “That’s okay. I can’t either.” Explain why you can’t and then talk about what you do know.
- Fuel your mental engine.
Let’s start with some preparation tips. Dopamine and epinephrine help regulate mental alertness. Both come from tyrosine, an amino acid found in proteins. So make sure to include protein in the meal you eat before you need to be at your best.
- Burn off a little cortisol.
Cortisol is secreted by your adrenal glands when you’re anxious or stressed. High levels of cortisol limit your creativity and your ability to process complex information; when you’re buzzed on cortisol, it’s almost impossible to read and react to the room. The easiest way to burn off cortisol is to exercise.
- Create two contingency plans.
If you’re like me, “What if?” is your biggest source of anxiety: What if your PowerPoint presentation fails, someone constantly interrupts, or your opening falls flat? Pick two of your biggest fears and create contingency plans.
- Establish a pre-routine.
Instead of creating a superstition, create a routine that helps center you emotionally. Walk the room ahead of time to check sight lines. Check microphone levels. Run through your presentation at the site to ensure it’s ready to go.
- Set a backup goal.
You should always have two goals in mind: one that you really want to achieve, and another that you’ll aim for if the first doesn’t work out. Why should you be prepared to give up on your primary goal? It will allow you to walk away from one failed attempt without feeling like a complete failure.
- Share a genuinely emotional story.
Tell a story and let your emotions show. If you were sad, say so. If you cried, say so. If you felt remorse, let it show. When you share genuine feelings you create an immediate and lasting connection with the audience. Emotion trumps speaking skills every time.
- Pause for 10 seconds.
Pause for two or three seconds and audiences assume you’ve lost your place; five seconds, they think the pause is intentional; after 10 seconds even the people texting can’t help looking up. When you start speaking again, the audience naturally assumes the pause was intentional … and that you’re a confident and accomplished speaker.
- Share one thing no one knows.
Find a surprising fact or an unusual analogy that relates to your topic. Audiences love to cock their heads and think, “Really? Wow…”
- Benefit the audience instead of “selling.”
Put all your focus on ensuring that the audience will benefit from what you say; never try to accomplish more than one thing. When you help people make their professional or personal lives better, you’ve done all the selling you’ll need to do.
- Don’t make excuses.
Due to insecurity, many speakers open with an excuse: “I didn’t get much time to prepare”¦” or, “I’m not very good at this.” Excuses won’t make your audience cut you any slack, but they will make people think, “Then why are you wasting my time?” Do what you need to do to ensure you don’t need to make excuses.
- Don’t do your prep onstage.
Don’t wait until you’re onstage to check your mic, your lighting, your remote, or your presentation. And if something does fail, smile and try to look confident while you (or others) take care of the problem. When things go wrong, what really matters is how you react.
- Don’t overload your slides.
Roughly speaking, your fonts will be between 60 and 80 points. If you need to fit more words on a slide, that means you haven’t tightened your message.
- Don’t ever read your slides.
Your audience should be able to almost instantly scan your slides; if they have to actually read, you might lose them. And you’ll definitely lose them if you read to them. Your slides should accentuate your points; they should never be the point.
- Focus on earning attention.
Make your presentation so interesting, so entertaining, and so inspiring that people can’t help but pay attention. It’s not the audience’s job to listen; it’s your job to make them want to listen.
- Always repeat audience questions.
Unless microphones are available, rarely will everyone in the audience hear questions other audience members ask. Always repeat the question and then answer it. It’s not only courteous, but it also provides you with a little more time to think of an awesome way to answer each question.
- Always repeat yourself.
Create a structure that allows you to repeat and reinforce key points. First explain a point, then give examples of how that point can be applied, and at the end provide the audience with action steps they can take based on that point. What you repeat has a much greater chance of being remembered–and being acted upon.
- Always, always run short.
If you have 30 minutes, take 25. If you have an hour, take 50. Always respect your audience’s time and end early. Finish early and ask if anyone has questions. But never run long–because all the goodwill you built up could be lost.
Join Toastmasters and find a club that you like to practise your speeches in a friendly environments. You are welcome to visit our Kampong Ubi Toastmasters Club if you are living in Singapore.