Public speaking is a skill and you can learn it. While the content is the key, your presentation skills will make a difference in how the audience will respond to it and how much they will benefit from it.
Are you preparing to deliver a presentation and feeling nervous and agitated? You have all the materials, knowledge, but still feel anxious about speaking?
A good presentation requires a relaxed and confident speaker, that will gain the trust and respect of the audience. This is especially crucial, if you are speaking before an audience that doesn’t know you. The first few seconds are key, because the first impression will impact how people perceive you during the speech and how much credit they give you at the start.
Here are a few tips I would like to share with you today on how to create a bold stage presence, so you appear comfortable, trustworthy and convincing.
1. Get introduced
As a speaker, you want to have someone who will take care of the organizational details and all the announcements, from switching off mobile phones to the silent mode to details of the coffee break and the location of the restrooms. You should be invited to the stage with a short introduction. Think of a few words you would like the master of ceremony to use when inviting you to the stage.
2. Walk in with confidence
Your body language says more than words and in these first few seconds you are communicating with the audience before actually speaking a single word. Walk onto the stage with confidence and adjust the pace to your topic. If you are running an exciting event, show the excitement in your moves, be energetic, make bigger steps, smile and relax. If you are making a strategic announcement or delivering tragic news, adjust your movements to the situation, walk at a slower pace with smaller steps, ground yourself before speaking. In both cases it is important to appear confident and in control.
3. Keep eye contact
Whether you are talking to a small group or big crowd you need to keep eye contact with the audience. Scan the audience before you start speaking and maintain the contact throughout your speech. Every few seconds, choose a random face in the crowd and speak just to him or her.
4. Use pauses
A pause can be as powerful as the content. Plan a few pauses in your speech, let the audience have a few seconds to reflect on what you sad. A pause means you remain silent and your body motionless. Remain still and watch the audience. Then move before continuing your speech. If you move during the pause, you distract the audience and the impact it lost.
“There are two kinds of speakers – those who get nervous and those who are liars.”
5. Make a few distinct gestures
Think about your body language when you prepare your speech or presentation and add a few bold gestures to illustrate the key elements of your speech. Plan it ahead and practice. It is important to use those bold movements or gestures to help your audience to visualize but also to refocus on you. Confidence in your movements will help you to establish your stage presence.
6. Control your hands
Hand movements distinguish a confident and relaxed speaker from a nervous one. If you do not know what to do with your hands, rest them in front of you and use them to make distinct points during your speech. You can also hold an object – clicker or pointer, if you use slides or marker, in case you write on a board. You may hold some notes, but make sure they are on a smaller piece of paper, between a business card and A5, you don’t want to shuffle big pieces of paper in front of you.
7. Control your body
It is important you are aware of your body balance. Try to ground yourself from the beginning and come back to this position every time you are making a strong point. Try to avoid balancing on your feet, but do not lock your knees either – both those positions indicate a nervous speaker. Every now and then try to bring your awareness to your body, check your position, relax any tension you may feel. You should try to move purposefully.
Your voice is an instrument, it only works if you breathe properly. If you control your breathing, your voice will be stronger and clearer. Before you start speaking, take a deep breath. It is important your brain gets the oxygen to function properly. It also helps you to relax, if you start feeling anxious.
9. Use the space around you.
The bigger the stage or space the more you should use it. Don’t be afraid to come closer to the audience, particularly when you reach the climax of your speech. The stage is your territory, claim it, own it. In a big room, it is important you use not only the center, but also the sides, so the audience can get a fair share of you.
10. Make them laugh...
It may not always be appropriate, but a dose of humor will certainly make your speech better. People want to be entertained and even if it is a professional presentation, you can always find a way to deliver it with a twist. Think about a funny quote or an anecdote you may share with the audience. Make sure it is connected with the subject and adds value to your speech.
Don’t forget to have fun! Presenting can be a great experience and it is down to the speaker to make it one for the audience. You are delivering the message, make sure it is worthwhile.