01.03.2011 | Molly McWhinnie
Welcome to 2011! At Communiqué PR, we are ready to put our clients’ plans into action and are evaluating which of the many industry events are the right speaking engagements for them. Each week, Mashable’s Brett Petersel shares the “100+ Upcoming Social Media & Tech Events” and it is shaping up to be another exciting year. This calendar served as a great reminder for us on how best to prepare for any speaking engagement. While we have written about this topic before on our blog in the past, we have a few new ideas that incorporate today’s technology that we thought we would share.
Whether it is a high-profile international event or a local or regional opportunity, speaking engagements provide an excellent way to build thought leadership among peers and potential customers. Regardless of size, it is essential that you take the time to thoughtfully prepare to ensure that you deliver a meaningful presentation. Below are a few tips to consider:
Know the Audience. Identify who will be in your audience. Are you presenting to your colleagues, industry peers or potential customers? Think about what content they are interested in hearing and what questions they might have. Seek to understand what is relevant and top of mind with that specific audience and incorporate those points into your speech. Knowing your audience will enable you to tailor your presentation to be as applicable and informative as possible.
Know Your Roadmap. What do you want to have accomplished at the end of your presentation? What are the key takeaways for the audience? It is likely that you won’t be able to cover everything so decide what is essential, what is important and what would be nice to include. Provide a clear beginning that sets the stage for your audience and gives them a sense of what they will hear from you; a strong middle that clearly covers the essential information you want to share; and, a conclusion that articulately summarizes the few key points or takeaways. As you practice, you can always add in additional examples or stories to illustrate your points if you have additional time. However, usually questions at the end take up more time than you expect.
Practice and Practice Often. You may feel as though you know your material inside and out, but it is important to practice. Rehearse out loud in front of your colleagues, friends or family with all of the equipment (or props) you plan on using. Have your audience time you to ensure you are delivering the entire presentation in the allotted timeframe. You could also video tape yourself and watch for any trouble areas or nervous habits. Regardless of your method, incorporate all of the feedback, revise as needed and master your speech so that it sounds natural.
Visual Aids. To complement your presentation, consider using visuals in PowerPoint to help illustrate your points. Images, graphs or even video and audio can be great enhancements, but know your limit on what you can manage logistically. It is more important to concentrate on your message, not the supporting visuals. Also clarify what equipment will be available on site so you know what you will need to bring and set up.
As you develop your presentation, avoid making your slides text heavy as it may contribute to losing your audience’s attention. It will also be tempting for you to read from the slides rather than engage with your audience.
Be Authentic. Presenting in front of a large group makes most people nervous. While it is important to appear confident and enthusiastic, take a deep breath, relax and be yourself. Connect with your audience by making eye contact, varying your tone and speed, and speak as though you are talking directly to the person furthest away from you. If you make a mistake, admit it and move on. It is important to remember that people want for you to succeed.
Encourage Audience Participation. It is likely that the majority of your audience will have a mobile device with them. While making the polite request to silence their cell phones, do encourage them to participate from your session on Twitter by suggesting a specific hashtag. You could offer a prize as an incentive for the most active Tweeter from the session.
Another way to keep your audience engaged is to ask them questions or conduct a short poll (i.e. how many of you are active on Twitter today?) that can help lead your presentation to the next point. By doing so, it will make for a memorable presentation when your audience feels engaged and participating in a session.
Solicit Feedback. Experience builds confidence, which is essential for public speaking. After the event, solicit feedback from audience members or organizers to learn what worked well and what didn’t work well. This will ultimately help you prepare for your next speaking engagement.
We hope you find this information helpful and a good refresher on how to prepare for a speaking engagement. If you have any additional suggestions on what you found to be helpful, either as a presenter or as an audience member, we would love to hear from you.