Whether presenting a speech to an auditorium of 100+ people or a small conference room, public presentation is a significant part of any PR practitioner’s role. It takes some practice and skill-honing to fine-tune every aspect of public speaking. Here are a few places to start.
Use your stage with intention
When you get in front of a room, pause. Take in your surroundings. Then begin. You need a transition beat. This allows you to center yourself, but it also establishes your presence for your audience. Use your stage or space with intention. When you move, move with purpose. Your gestures need meaning behind them. Talking with your hands just to move them is not as impactful as staying still until you have a specific point to highlight. For certain phrases, you’ll want to choreograph arm or hand movements, or use those points to walk to another part of the “stage.”
It helps to have several specific phrases memorized to coordinate phrases with body gestures. Rehearse each section without memorizing each word. When you know your points – and their order – you can smoothly move from one thought to the next. By stringing your story together in this manner, you’ll drive your message with power and emotion behind individual thoughts. Craft your speech with intent, using specific action words to add momentum to your story. But, don’t get hung up on memorizing each sentence. Focus on the transitional phrases that weave your mini-points together. Think bigger story instead of every detail. Rely on your storytelling abilities. When people know their material inside and out, it shows. Their passion and excitement makes their material more interesting to listeners.
Punctuate with pauses
Many of us rely on filler words: like, um, uh, so, you know, and others. These words can distract your audience, or worse, undermine your message. It’s hard to extract them from your public speaking, but with practice you can cut your reliance. One approach is to use a pause instead. Pausing allows you to gather your thoughts or take a breath. Practice this and you’ll find yourself relying less on filler words. It can also emphasize key messages. Pause to make a point. After a question. In-between topics. During a list of items. When you take a beat, your audience has time to fully absorb your message. The bonus is that you feel more pulled together and confident.
Read the room
Imagine you’re delivering your presentation or speech to one person, and that it’s an intimate conversation, not a packed room. This will help your words ring personally and give you a connection with the audience. Make eye contact with each person in the room, or with sections of a larger auditorium.
You may have prepared a stellar speech or presentation but if you get up there and people are looking at their phones, frowning in disapproval, or falling asleep, you have to recalibrate. Before you draft your words, know your audience and write for them. While presenting, if their body language is concerning, take a break and ask questions. In a smaller setting, ask if they follow. Do they want to debate a point? For larger settings, you’ll have to rely on the non-verbal feedback you receive to adjust on the fly.
At its heart, presenting is about message delivery. Your message must be delivered clearly and concisely. Ensure there’s no confusion by speaking precisely, with intent and authority. Some presentations will require more polish than off-the-cuff remarks, but all public speakers can benefit from an approach that will allow them to slow down and to personally connect so their messages are understood clearly.
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