Early in my career, I decided to “force” myself to do things I was either scared of or not good at doing. One of those things was public speaking, so I set a goal to try and speak at at least two external events a year, and I have been doing this now for the last 15 years. This year, with the launch of my company, I have already spoken six times.
I have gone from reading scripts behind the podium to roaming the stage with no notes (though I think I need to work on standing still a bit more). While I feel I still have a long way to go, I have certainly improved over the years.
At conferences, I always learn from speakers, both the good ones and the not so good ones.
When practicing a presentation, the number one thing that helps me is that I always tell myself, “don’t editorialize” (aka overexplain). This is also the number one flaw I see in many speakers.
Make your point and move on; don’t underestimate the intelligence or patience of your audience.
“We simplified our website and saw a 50% increase in conversion.” Good
“We simplified our website and saw a 50% increase in conversion. What this means is that when there is less friction in the process, customers are more likely to book, blah, blah, blah...” Bad
I see this so often in presentations; people start strong, but they lose the audience by over-explaining.
Below are the top 5 things I focus on:
1. Start Strong – Make your start strong and memorize your first 2-3 minutes, this is where you will win or lose the audience, it is also where your nerves can get the best of you so if you have it committed it to memory it will keep you going until you hit your stride
2. Don’t Editorialize – Don’t over-explain (as above)
3. Keep it Simple- If you have slides, keep them simple, few or no words. Often all you need is a good picture that illustrates your key point. Nothing an audience dreads more than a slide full of text (you can almost hear them think “please god don’t read that”)
4. Engage the Audience - Tell stories, give real-life examples, and add humor when you can. Audiences are rooting for you,; you don't need to be Chris Rock, even moderately amusing things will get laughter and loosen you and the audience up
5. Practice, Practice, Practice