It often happens in our professional life that we are given 10 up to 15 minutes time slot at a conference, workshop, seminar, or another type of professional gathering to present our project, idea, organisation, or a summary of our latest article. We strive at telling everything we know on the subject matter in a short period of time as we believe that in this way we will be more convincing and will inform audiences better, and this will provoke discussion. I would like to share a few tips from my practice as a speaker at many international gatherings to help you to decrease the presser, to tell more in less, and most importantly – to enjoy the talk!
- Prepare well in advance. Think of what is the most important sentence which you want to leave the audience with when you finish talking. What is the essence, the focus of your presentation? Try to complete the following sentence: “When I finish my talk/presentation, the audience will….”
- Put yourself into the shoes of the audience. One and the same subject matter can be presented differently depending on the listeners’ profile.
- Prepare a few power points or visual materials that are attractive, combining text with visuals – photos, videos, drawings. Alternatively, you could think of making a simple sketch and putting a few keywords on a flip chart. Sometimes a simple sketch can say much more than many slides prepared via power point. We all are a bit tired of them, aren’t we?
- Wake up and warm up your voice way in advance, especially if your presentation is scheduled in the morning. Make a 10 min exercise of any type you like to lift up your body energy.
- Feel the “ownership” of the space. If you have a chance, see the room and all technical equipment in advance, not in the last moment. When you present you are like an actor on the stage and it is important to feel comfortable when talking.
- Try and rehearse. You might wish to rehearse in advance in front of your mobile camera, especially if you have little experience with public speeches.
- Dress comfortably. Mind the dress code depending on the occasion. Avoid complicated scarves, jewelry and other attributes that might grab audience’s attention too much outside of the content and might also bother you when you talk.
- Socialize briefly with members of the audience in advance before your presentation. This will increase the human contact and will decrease your tension.
Structure and content
- The start and the end of your presentation is the most important. Audiences tend to remember much more the first and the last things. Start with an interesting fact, with a question, statement, hypothesis, personalized short story. Make sure that the audience is attracted and involved from the first minute. If you lose this moment, it is lost until the end of your speech.
- Never forget to present your team that stays behind the project or paper (if there is any). If you act as an “ambassador” of collaborative ideas, talk to your team before and ask for their input. Rehearse your speech in front of them and ask feedback to improve.
- Structure your talk by giving numbers to different parts of your presentation. Mind the time by helping your audience to understand where you are staying at in your presentation’s thread.
- Emphasize on the most important points. Public presentation is like a fairy-tale: it has an introduction, development of the “story”, pick, and an end. Avoid telling everything you know on the subject matter.
- Use your 10 min talk to increase audience’s curiosity. Make them remember something interesting or appealing, or to motivate them to search further on the subject matter.
- Combine the theoretical discourses with practical examples and personalized cases. Orientate the topic towards people, individuals, stories, lessons learned. Every subject-matter has a human story behind-show it in a clever, brief and memorable way.
- At the end: repeat the key points in your presentation. Leave the audience with conclusions, recommendations and/or open questions.
It is well understood by many great speakers that content and words are important, but way more important is the body language – gestures, posture, voice, glance, hands position and many other elements outside the words.
- Communicate with your listeners and involve them. Make your talk interactive by posing questions, using interactive dialogue. Do not forget that adult audiences’ attention drops down very fast-every 7th minute or even less an adult person switches their mind to something else. Keep them fresh and engaged by diverse techniques – make a short joke, show a 1-2min relevant video, share a shocking fact, provoke a short Q/A part of your talk, show pictures or cartoons that are carefully selected.
- Make sure that your first glance when you start talking is at the audience, not at the screen, or at your notes. It is very important to make an eye contact and show closeness and interest to engage your listeners.
- Make very short two-three seconds pauses when you talk. Give time to your audience to digest what you are saying, and to have seconds of thinking and mind-reflection.
- Be optimistic and lift up the level of your energy. If you love what you talk about, the audiences will love it too!
At the end
- If you give handouts before or after your talk, make sure what purpose they serve, and inform well your listeners why you disseminate them.
- Mind the time during your speech, and control it by giving evidences from time to time that you are aware how much time is left.
- Finish your talk positively, and provoke further interactions in the break. Be open and ready for further communication with whoever is interested.
Finally: As you have spent time to prepare, probably you expect that you are the one controlling 100% what happens in the room. Remember that many things can go wrong before, during or at the end of your presentation. Visualize all possible risk scenarios and be prepared. If something is against your initial plan, be flexible: change, adapt, modify. Improvisation is sometimes one of the best skills of every actor on the stage. Learn to get out of unexpected situations in a tolerant and diplomatic way.
And most importantly: enjoy! Be happy that you are given this unique opportunity to share and be heard by others!
Read also these blogs and short articles:
- 10 tips for improving your public speaking skills, Harvard University: https://www.extension.harvard.edu/professional-development/blog/10-tips-improving-your-public-speaking-skills
- 20 Public speaking skills of the best TED talks: https://www.inc.com/ss/jeff-haden/20-public-speaking-tips-best-ted-talks
- Better public speaking: https://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/PublicSpeaking.htm
- Seven principles of effective public speaking: http://www.amanet.org/training/articles/seven-principles-of-effective-public-speaking.aspx
Blog photos from the International Arts & Cultural Management and Cultural Policy
Programme Unicult2020, Third edition: Rijeka, Croatia, July 3-16, 2017
Photo credit: Tanja Kanazir, Photographer: Rijeka, Croatia