Presentation skills are the tools that enable us to bring a page of written text to spoken life. They are the means by which we animate words, infuse interest and develop rapport with the audience. Master the following 6 presentation techniques and you’ll have your listeners clinging to every word you utter.
Speak To Their Ears
Generally, people are taught to write for the eyes. For example, when writing a book you are writing for the eyes. However, when writing a speech the writing style has to change. Remember, your listeners will receive your words through their ears. As such you should continually ask yourself, “how will this sound to my listeners?”
Specifically speaking, check for:
The usage of technical jargon. Avoid them. Technical jargon is best avoided when speaking to a general crowd consisting of people from different walks of life. When your audience does not understand a particular jargon, they will dwell on that word for a few seconds trying to understand its meaning. As such, you would have “lost” your audience for a few seconds.
If you “lose” your audience once too often, your speech would be deemed ineffective. On the flip side, when speaking to people of a specific industry, the usage of technical jargon is important to help them understand your subject matter better. It also helps to impress them with your knowledge on the subject.
Long sentences. Long sentences is another killer. As you keep joining your sentences with conjunctions such as “and”, “or”, “so”, “however”, “but”, etc, the sentence loses its power. By the time your audience grasp the last part of your sentence, they would have forgotten the first part. Therefore, KISS (keep it short & simple). In the case of a book, you can afford to have some long sentences because your readers can always re-read your sentences a few times if they don’t understand it. However, in a speech, they only have one chance to understand your sentence. You are not going to repeat your sentences over & over again, are you?
Be specific. “Next Monday” is better than “soon”. “Flowing white beard” is better than “old man.” Specific words have the power to paint a vivid image in the minds of your audience. The clearer the image, the longer your audience will remember your speech. The longer your audience remember it, the more impactful it will be to them.
Use Conversational Language
A dead giveaway of a speaker who lacks confidence is someone who depends heavily on their prepared text. Strive to speak directly to your audience. Trying to memorize your speech word for word based on your prepared text will make your speech artificial & stilted. Conversational language on the contrary is natural and flowing. By instilling the feeling of a heart-to-heart chat, the conversational style will help to enhance audience rapport.
Conversational language is clearly different from written language. It allows for a sporadic ungrammatical and incorrect use of a word and sentence, as long as the meaning is not confusing and sounds correct. For example, it is perfectly okay to say the grammatically-correct “For whom is it?” if you want to. However, it would easy on the ears of the audience if you say “Who’s it for?”
Make Sense of Everything
A pertinent point to remember about a speech is that written language does not always make the same sense to a listener as spoken language. When we read written text we go at our preferred speed. We can pause, “reverse” or “fast forward” as we like. However, when we are listening, we are dependent on the speaker to interpret the meaning for us. Let’s look at the example below on how to express the same sentence in two different ways.
Written version: “As the rays hit his raised eyebrows, he rose from his seat with a rose in his hand.” In this case, though there are a few homonyms (rays, raised; rose, rose) in the sentence, the reader will be able to figure things out themselves based on the spelling of the words.
Spoken version: “Rays of sunlight hit his eyes. He raised his eyebrows in surprise to see a red rose on his table. He clutched the red flower and rose from his seat.” In this case, the listeners are totally dependent on the pronunciation & enunciation of the public speaker. Therefore, it’s best that the sentence be re-written for the ears to avoid confusion.
Signpost Where You Are Heading
The concept of signposting comes from the yesteryears when we used to rely on signposts to drive from one place to another. Signposting, like the signs on a road, is a technique of letting your listeners know in advance what is coming next in your speech. It is used to inform the audience in advance what you want them to understand from it.
You can signpost your presentation before you start by saying “Today we are going to discuss three things. Firstly… Secondly… and finally…” You can also signpost your speech by giving it a non-confusing title. For example “Confront Your Fears” would make a better speech title as compared to “Take the Bull by Its Horns.” Another method of signposting is to give an example to reinforce a point. For example, saying “Let me share a story with you emphasize what I mean…” is a form of signposting as it reinforces a point using a story. At the end of your speech, summarizing your points also serves as a final signpost to help your audience remember and understand your speech better.
Your audience will appreciate signposting because it helps them follow your presentation easily without getting lost.
Use Humor To Create Rapport
Jokes can be used to amuse an audience while simultaneously slipping in the message you want to impart. The common ground is the shared laughter. If the joke works it gets you together; on the other hand, if the joke fails, it drives a wedge between you. As such, your humorous speech need to be befitting the occasion, tastefully presented and, of course, hilarious. Steer clear of jokes related to sex, politics, religion, gender & ethnicity.
Use Pauses Appropriately
Just like there are speed breakers on the road to slow a driver down, pauses serve as a speed breaker for public speakers. Some of the best moments in a presentation are, interestingly, those instances when you pause. Pausing slightly longer than you need to is a technique used to show you’re in total control of the audience.
Knowing when to pause is important. Pause prior to an important point to build suspense and catch the attention of the audience. For example, “Today’s price for this product is…”. Pauses are also useful before the punchline of a joke to build tension. Immediately after you have delivered the punchline, pause again to wait for the audience to settle after laughing.
Pause after an important point to let them to absorb, comprehend or reflect on your message.
Master these useful skills and you’ll take your presentation expertise to unimaginable heights!
I wish you well.