Giving a speech can be nerve-racking for many people. Veteran speaker and coach Lynn Baker shares some presentation tips with Helen Grange
YOU KNOW the subject backwards, but when asked to speak about it in public, you break into a cold sweat. Is this you?
Public-speaking anxiety is common, and it’s becoming even more prevalent today because we spend less of our time in public practising our social skills and more time online by ourselves.
The problem is that if your work requires you to make presentations to management or staff, your anxiety can interfere with your plans for promotion.
Ironically, it’s often overachievers who fear public speaking the most. This is because they’re hyper-aware of the importance of presentation skills in climbing the corporate ladder, so they worry excessively about not doing it well enough to impress the boss.
Enter Lynn Baker, a seasoned public speaker and speaking coach who has recently published a useful manual titled Speaking of Speaking, in which she walks us through a speech from preparation to delivery.
The most important thing to know is that the PowerPoint presentation, accompanied by rattling off information, no longer cuts it.
“A few years ago, the average person had an attention span of three to five minutes. Today the average attention span is reportedly nine seconds,” says Baker.
If you want to grab attention, you have to be clever and engaging from the start.
“Today’s audiences are no longer stirred by traditional modes of presentation or outdated formats of communication,” Baker says.
“We live in a time when visual narratives continuously bombard us into numbness, so people thirst for a more natural connection in which information is distributed in a clear, concise and eloquent style.”
This means you need to engage as you would in conversation rather than talk at your audience.
“A presentation should be visually stimulating, content rich and delivered with a performance that engages an audience in a virtual conversation.
“And it needs to deliver focused and valuable content that the audience can use immediately after the presentation.” How do you get this right? Preparation is key. “Begin with the end in mind,” Baker says.
“Write the objective of the speech in a sentence of 10 words or less. This should clearly and specifically identify what the audience should leave remembering or doing.”
Next, find out who is attending and how much they know about the subject, then deliver only information that is new or relevant.
“Try to use new, exciting or original material that they haven’t seen or heard before.”
Human beings remember best when information is shared in three segments – opening, body, and close.
“Open with a bang. Do something completely different to open the presentation,” Baker says.
“Play energetic music, run a dynamic video, recite a powerful quote or ask a bold question, just do something that the audience would not be expecting. This not only grabs audience’s attention, but clearly distinguishes you from other speakers on the programme and makes you memorable,” says Baker.
After that, introduce yourself and establish your credibility, before going into the body of the speech, which should be where your key points are.
Barack Obama is regarded as one of the greatest speakers of all time.
Speaking coach, Lynn Baker.