There has always been a strong correlation between leadership, communication skills, and success. Polished communication and interpersonal skills allow you to form better relationships, motivate people, energize your team, command a boardroom, and act as a reputable resource for the media. Public speaking also happens to be the most dreaded form of communication -- but it shouldn't be. If you are well-prepared, you will be able to deliver riveting speeches, inspire large audiences, or simply motivate others to yield productive results.
Whether you are pitching a business idea, presenting information or selling a product or service, your ability to effectively convey your message is contingent upon your ability to express yourself clearly and authentically. Also, remember to present with passion, and people will listen to every word. So be sure to be well-versed in the subject matter, well-rested and well-prepared.
Not sure where to start? The three "P" approach -- planning, preparation, and practice -- is a reliable method that will help you hone your skills and ultimately assure your success.
Here are some specific points to keep in mind:
1. Begin with the end.
What do you want people to know, feel and believe by the end of your presentation? In other words, what is the ultimate purpose? For example, if it is a sales presentation, be sure to prepare responses to things such as, "Why should they buy?" "What if they do?" "What if they don't?" If you can't answer these questions, you are not ready to present.
2. Know your audience.
Take the time in advance to consider your audience. The more you know, the more you can prepare to connect with them. Find out things such as how many people will attend, and what their demographics are. Will the audience be knowledgeable on your topic? Different groups may require you to adapt to their way of listening and receiving information.
3. Less is more.
Keep the amount of text to a minimum on your presentation slides. Adding too many bullet points, graphs and words to slides can distract your audience. And, if you do use text, make sure it is large enough to read. Create beautiful visuals that will spur an emotional connection to your audience.
4. Review the space.
The impact of environmental factors in a meeting space is often underestimated. Light, color, temperature and background noise can affect peoples' mood and attention span. Pay close attention to the lighting. If the room is too dark, it may encourage people to sleep. Dim the lights, but make sure you can clearly see your audience.
This may not always be possible, but if you can, take advantage of any rehearsal time -- and ask for feedback from a trusted source. Take care of technical aspects such as testing your microphone, audiovisuals, and lighting ahead of time.
6. More stories, less statistics.
Tell stories that are relevant to the topic or that help make your points. Stories are very powerful and will be remembered far more than your content. And don't forget the power of the pause. When used correctly, a moment of silence -- or pause -- in between statements allows the audience to take in what you have said. Pauses in your delivery can also draw the audience in further, and connect on a more emotional level.
7. Win over the crowd.
Ask yourself these questions: "So what?" "Who cares?" If you can't answer this, you are not ready to present. The whole point of public speaking is to be convincing and compelling. No matter what the end goal is, you need to be able to win over your crowd. How can you help your audience solve a problem or issue? Remember, it's not about you, it's about the people who have shown up to listen to you.