Find Your Inner Speaker: 8 Tips To Deliver A Powerful Presentation

A key part of my working life to date has been centered around speaking engagements. Obviously I’m no longer hopping on a plane to speak at events these days — but I’m still giving talks.

Last year I wrote an article Find Your Inner Speaker: 3 Key Steps To Deliver A Powerful Presentation Every Time which included tips on preparing your talk to presenting it on stage, dealing with nerves and following through after the event.

This article is a scaled-down version that takes into account our current reality of virtual presentations.

I’ve had the honor of being a keynote speaker at conferences and events all over the world. I’ve spent innumerable hours preparing for talks and honing the craft of public speaking.

Each time I prepare I dig down deeper into my inner speaker — that part of me that strives to grow and learn and to connect intimately with my audience. Whether you are delivering a webinar training, business, or sales presentation, the following tips should help you get more comfortable, confident, and creative both on and offline.

1. Prepare Your Talk

I never skip this step no matter how well I know the industry or the topic I’m speaking on. This is the most time-intensive part of the entire presentation process and while it’s tempting to wing it, I advise you don’t — ever.

2. Decide What You Want To Say

Your presentation should always begin with a clear purpose in mind. Write down your core message in one or two sentences. If you find that you have several messages you’d like to deliver, challenge yourself to focus and simplify your message. A focused presentation has well-defined boundaries. Once you have a clear focus for your talk, you can then group your other ideas around it.

Pro Tip: Take a leaf from Garr Reynold’s playbook.

Most people open a computer and create an outline. Don’t do this. Preparation should be analog at the beginning. Turn off the technology and minimize the distractions. You’ve got to get your idea out of your head and on the wall so you can see it, share it, make it better. We’ve got to see the details and subtract and add (but mostly subtract) where needed. And we’ve go to see the big picture. Ideas and patterns are easier to see when they are up on the wall or spread out on the table.

3. Know Your Audience

Find out as much as you can about your audience so you can better speak to their interests and in the language, they are most familiar with. Who will you be presenting to? Why should they listen to you? Why should they care about what you have to say?

What do they already know about the topic you will be speaking on? This is particularly important for training presentations where people may be at different levels of adoption and skill.

4. Know Your Topic

This one should hardly need saying, but it’s not just important to know your topic thoroughly, I’d go a step further and in saying don’t accept an opportunity to speak about something that you are not passionate or knowledgeable about.

5. Structure Your Presentation

Having a structure for your talk is a helpful roadmap to keep you on track and to allow the audience to follow along with your points.

  • Start with a strong opening. Share some compelling statistics, outline a current problem, or share a memorable anecdote.
  • Provide listeners with your roadmap. Organize your main points into an order that will make sense to your listeners. Let your audience know what to expect — how long your presentation will run, which points you will cover and if you’ll be taking questions afterward.
  • Reinforce your key takeaways. You want your audience to come away from your talk remembering your key takeaways. Emphasize these key points throughout your presentation and particularly at the end.
  • Don’t forget your CTA. Your CTA should transmit a sense of urgency. Why is it important they hear your message and act now? What will happen if they don’t act? Define one measurable action your audience can take once your presentation is over.

Pro Tip: Use the PIC concept as a way to structure your talk — make a Point, Illustrate each point with anecdotes or case studies, make sure each point has a Challenge or recommendation, or insightful takeaway.

6. Ditch The Slides?

You’ll hear plenty of advice to ditch PowerPoint in your presentations — but having experimented, I’ve found my own style of presenting is enhanced by using slides.

The key is how you design your slides. They should support your talk not be your entire presentation.

PowerPoint has a bad rap because so many speakers STILL cram slides with information which they read bullet point by laborious point to an audience who are perfectly able to read it themselves.

Not only does this style of presentation contribute to the phenomenon known as Death by PowerPoint, but bullet points are also proven to be an ineffective method of communication for presentations.

Pro Tip: Take a look at how I use slides in my own presentations — highly visual, simple design with minimal text. I use one idea per slide and use these resources to source high — quality images.

Recommend Reading: 29 Killer Presentation Tips to Wow Your Audience

7. Tell Stories

Infuse all your presentations with relevant stories. An audience is going to remember a speaker who tells a story. Bring your talk to life by sharing personal anecdotes and stories of what has worked for you and your clients.

Think about the elements of your story that will be most meaningful to your listeners. To quote Garr Reynolds, “Even when we are “telling our story” we are really telling their story. If designed and told well, our story is really their story.”

Recommended Reading: 7 Simple Ways to Tell a Compelling Story

8. Practice, Practice, Practice

Rehearse out loud using whatever slides, notes, or props you plan to use during your talk. Don’t simply practice by sitting at your desk clicking through your slide-deck; stand and deliver your talk as if you are doing it in front of an audience.

Work on your voice intonation and emphasis, flow and transitions, and practice controlling filler words, like “ems” and “ahs.” Modulate your speaking voice to a lower pitch (if you can do so without sounding unnatural); the deeper the pitch of your voice, the more persuasive and confident you sound.

In The 5 P’s of Powerful Speaking for a Memorable Speech, professional speaker Pam Warren points out that “in public speaking clarity and tone are far more important than volume in that they imply authority, a certain gravitas and above all, confidence.”

When speaking on certain points you may want to stress their importance, so practice the power of the pause — a slight pause before you’re about to say something important. Take a printed copy of your text and make marks, such as a forward slash (/) or use color coding in your paragraphs to remind you to pause at key points in your talk.

Time your presentation using a stopwatch, or one of the many free countdown timers available online.

The most important thing you should practice is the opening and end of your talk. Focus on conveying a strong, confident start that will set the stage for everything that follows. Practicing how you will end your talk, builds your confidence to know exactly how you’ll finish, rather than ending with a feeble “thanks for listening.”

To Wrap Up

Presentation and public speaking are essential skills for many aspects of your social and professional life. Take every opportunity you can to practice speaking in public. Not only is it an important way to get your message out into the world, but mastering the art of public speaking is a wonderful way to boost your personal and professional confidence.

Social Media Consultant. Keynote Speaker. Digital Storyteller.

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