Are you reaching your potential as a speaker? When you give a presentation, do audience members give you their full attention? Do they clamor to ask questions and participate? When your presentation is over, do audience members give you a big round of applause--and afterwards, do a number of people line up to talk to you?
If not, says Terri Trespicio, creator of the Tapped to Speak course, you need to rethink the way you approach presentations. You may not have aspirations of speaking at a TED conference (Trespicio's first TEDx talk, Stop Searching for Your Passion, has earned more than three million views), but that doesn't mean you should simply build a PowerPoint deck and hope for the best.
Of course, standing up in public is a source of anxiety for many of us. But being an effective speaker has tremendous power. "You get the chance to share your story, your insights, your expertise; to hold a position of authority and esteem," Trespicio says. "And the impression you make can open up all kinds of opportunities . . . from being asked to work on a new project to embarking upon a new career."
How, then, can you make an impact? Borrow winning techniques from top-tier speakers. Here are 7 things to do every time you step on stage:
- Understand what the audience wants to achieve. You should know going in what this particular audience anticipates and expects from you. And if you're not sure, Trespicio says, ask. "They may want something to change. Or they want something to stay the same. They may seek inspiration. Or they need practical advice. Or they may just want someone to entertain them while they eat dinner. In any case, you need to know what success looks like from the audience's perspective."
- Be clear about what you want to accomplish. Are you trying to promote an agenda? Challenge an idea? Do you want to become part of audience members' world--or invite them into yours? Since you can't accomplish everything, make sure you focus on the outcome you'd most like to achieve. "And avoid being overly promotional," she says. "It's an instant turn-off."
- Choose one idea. "Your talk should only be about one thing," says Trespicio. "You don't need the whole beach; focus on a single grain. You want to motivate or raise awareness of one problem--the more specific, the better."
- Bring a fresh perspective. Nobody wants to hear a presentation about everything they already know. The best presentations provide a twist. They challenge an existing idea. They provide a new solution for a common problem. Or they offer your unique take on an issue--a point of view that only you could have, given your experience and frame of reference.
- Share evidence to make your case. Now that you've decided what you want to share, give the audience a reason to believe you. "Your idea can't go out there naked," says Trespicio. "It has to wear something--details, a personal story, an outcome, a lesson. People will only believe you if you provide some evidence or illustration of your idea."
- Strip out anything that doesn't fit. "Often when I coach my clients, I have to help them remove all the extra content that it weighing down their story. I have to say, 'Sorry, ma'am, that just won't fit in the overhead compartment,'" Trespicio explains. "Speakers often try to tell an audience every single thing they know. The fact is, people are not that interested. Don't think of your talk as a big vat of coffee. Think of it as an espresso: small, strong and potent."
- Don't wing it. When Trespicio was invited to speak at TEDx, she learned her entire talk and used no notes or slides. The best speakers prepare and practice--then do it again and again. "This is not improv--it's a polished performance. Your goal is to create a memorable experience." She adds that while people often tell her they think they're better "off the cuff," she begs to differ. "You can only do some improvised stuff if you are confident and sure of the core material. If you want to show your audience respect, come prepared."