An expert shares eight tips to make yourself heard.
It’s easy to lose confidence and crumple when facing an audience at a packed conference, sales presentation or in-house meeting.
Public speaking is an art made up of a number of supporting skills, says Marcus Grodentz. These are his top tips for improving your presentations.
If you’re giving a talk, whether online or in person, don’t jump straight in.
Wait. Wait until your audience is settled and they are all looking at you. Then - and only then - start talking.
In a meeting, pick your moment to contribute for maximum effect.
2. Start with the end in mind
It’s an old adage but nevertheless true. What sort of presentation/talk are you giving? What do you want it to achieve?
3. Know your audience
Who is going to listen to you speak? It’s important to know because it dictates the language you use.
If you’re talking to equestrian industry players, fine. But if your audience is not in the industry (however interested they may be) technical terms or acronyms may be unfamiliar to them. You could lose people as they’ll be too busy figuring out the technical stuff to keep listening.
4. Leverage the language
The language you use is important. For example, there is a huge difference between ‘taking an opportunity’ and ‘grasping an opportunity.’
5. Vary your voice
Vocal variety is another key element. How many speakers go through their entire presentations/speech at the same pitch? It becomes monotonous, even tedious.
With something dramatic, you might want to speed up and gradually increase your volume. If you have something sensitive, you can slow down and lower your voice. If you have some important information to share, take a pause.
Allow your audience time to absorb and digest it. Pausing is also a great way to cut down on your unintended ums and ahs.
6. Don’t hide behind slides
One of my pet hates is the use of PowerPoint as it is almost always unnecessary. Speakers use it as a prop to hide behind.
Visual props are good, but only if they are an integral part of your talk, say if you’re demonstrating a new product.
7. Stand up and move
Incorporating body language into your talk raises it to another dimension and it’s even more effective if you stand.
Even with Zoom, it isn’t that difficult to rearrange your camera angles to enable you to do just that. Sitting down with your face filling the entire screen robs you of the ability to use your body and to take advantage of your screen stage.
If you’re unable to stand for any reason, you can move your chair further back from the camera so that the audience can see more of you. Again, that enables you to make the most of body language to engage with your audience.
It’s essential to practice your talk – and use a timer. You need to know what you want to say and how long it will take you to say it.
And a final bonus: Use stories to engage attention.
One day, I had a dramatic call at work. “I need you to help save a life.” That was my introduction to Snowy the chicken, and the start of a nine-month publicity campaign.
Snowy was hatched in a Rare Breed Centre during a snowstorm and, sadly, was the only one of his clutch to survive.
The call to me as the City Council’s PR chief was to launch a media appeal for a donation of chicks that Snowy could ‘huddle’ with to help him thrive. They were found, and he did indeed thrive with constant media attention keeping tabs on his progress.
Snowy became such a celebrity that we used him in a whole variety of ways to promote the council and its services. He had a happy career before going into retirement at the centre.
Snowy is now one of the regular talks I give. It isn’t just about saving a chicken. It is about how you can take one story and approach it from a different angle to keep it alive and fresh. How you construct and present it means that you can keep it constantly new, revised and interesting.
As a speaker in the equestrian trade, you need to be authentic and passionate about your subject. I’m sure you have stories to share that will hold your listeners’ attention.
Use those stories and my tips to build your confidence and engage with audiences large or small.
About the author
Marcus Grodentz is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs.
There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland.
Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org