A couple years ago, it was estimated there were 350 PowerPoint presentations given every second across the globe. That number is likely much higher today due to a number of presentation programs on the market and the ease of creating visual presentations. But that doesn’t mean all these presentations are good. In fact, as much as $252 million a day is wasted watching poor presentations.
The key to a good presentation is not in the visuals, but in what you say and how you say it. As Winston Churchill, one of the greatest speakers who ever lived, said: “A good speech should be like a woman's skirt: long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”
Here are some more tips to help improve your speaking skills.
- Practice in front of people and start small. You can practice in front of family members, but it may be better to start talking to a small group in public, such as in a classroom, church or at a community event. During your speech learn to develop a rhythm and see where people laugh, nod or zone out.
- Film yourself and play it back so you can notice any bad habits like “ums,”“ahs” and fidgeting. Are you shaking or turning red? Not looking at your audience enough? Take notes on ways you can improve and ask a trusted colleague or friend to critique your speech, as well.
- Speak slowly! Most of us speak too fast when giving a speech; it’s natural when you’re nervous. A well-placed pause can actually be effective and let your audience catch up to what you’re saying so they absorb your message.
- Vary your diction. Remember the monotonous teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Take care to add inflection to your speaking. Pretend you’re having a conversation with a friend instead of speaking to a group of strangers. Watch for any monotone patches in your speech.
- Jot down brief notes but don't read off a paper. No one wants to watch you read your speech—if that was they case, they could just ask for a handout and be on their way. The more you practice, the less you’ll have to look at your cheat sheet.
- Make eye contact with various people in the audience. This not only engages them, but also calms you down. Most speakers can find a friendly face in the crowd. You can even point people out to ask questions if your speech warrants discussion.
- Go online and watch YouTube videos of TED talks. TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less).
- Take a speech class or join Toastmasters—its’ free and also a great way to meet other business people.
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