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How to improve your public speaking

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Most business owners will find they need to present in front of a group of strangers at one point or another. Doing so effectively can ensure you’re remembered for the right reasons.

Speaking in front of an audience is a highly effective marketing tool. A dynamic presentation, delivered articulately and authentically, builds a connection based on knowledge and trust between the speaker and the audience.

If you have little experience in public speaking and presenting, though, it can be easier said than done.

We provide some tips to help you craft and deliver a presentation that is memorable for the right reasons – full of energy and passion, and with you feeling relaxed enough to enjoy the authentic connection built with your audience, and the potential business relationships that may develop afterwards.

Plan

Define your outcome and consider the core message you wish to share. Is your content relevant to your audience? What will they gain? Can they learn from you and, perhaps later, act on your advice? Will it inspire them? Is the purpose of your presentation to help to grow awareness of your business or brand, and can you demonstrate how your product or service will solve their problem? 

Defining your intentions and the value you will provide to your audience in advance will help shape your content.

Prepare

Before spending time creating PowerPoint slides, ask yourself if they are actually necessary. Would you be able to connect better with your audience by keeping it simple and maintaining eye contact throughout? 


If you do want to use slides, choose your images, graphics and wording with care and creativity. Do not over-complicate and remember that less is more. Allow your presentation space to breathe, and give the audience time to think and digest. Slides can provide an excellent visual illustration to underline what you are saying, but they can also be a distraction, and sometimes dilute the personal connection you are building with your audience. 

Practise

It is crucial to stick to the allotted time. You will only achieve this with practice, running through your presentation many times before you deliver it. Time yourself. If you are running over, don’t be tempted to speak faster – trim the content. 

A presentation will take longer to deliver in a live setting than when practising at home, so allow yourself two or three minutes to spare. 

When you practise, stand up, energise your words, use your body and facial expressions. Imagine the audience is in front of you. If you are using slides, be aware that they are not there to prompt you – you need to be totally familiar with your content. If possible, ask a friend to watch you and give feedback.


Present

Your presenting voice should be louder than it is in regular conversation. Warm it up using vocal exercises and tongue-twisters. 

A good speaker should be relaxed, so loosen up, stretch, shake your limbs out, discharge the adrenaline running around your system. Do some deep breathing.

Have a glass of water nearby – taking a sip or two during the presentation can give you a moment to gather your thoughts and briefly look at your notes. Smile where appropriate and make eye contact. Show your passion – enthusiasm is contagious.

Aly Harrold is a public speaking coach