I’ll never forget my first public presentation experience.
It was a start-up competition and I had business peach in front of 5 business angels and 200 people in the audience.
Weeks before I wrote out every word I was going to say, and practiced reading it out loud what felt like a thousand times. Regardless, of my inexperience in front of a crowd, combined with my self-consciousness about my lifelong stammer, made me a complete wreck.
Without getting specific, let’s just say I spent a lot of time “feeling ill” the day of the competition, which ended up being, as you might imagine, an exercise in endurance for both me and the audience. I stunk.
Today, giving a public presentation or a speech is one of the easiest things I do in life. I love it and I start feeling totally relaxed speaking in front of the public. However, I’ve come to believe a person’s skill in public speaking, be it in front of a crowd of 500 strangers or a meeting with seven close associates – is more essential than ever.
You are what you say and your communication approach is your personal and professional mark. I believe in the past several years people start understanding the value of it and dedicate much of their time to creating effective presentation.
Now, hundreds of articles, have been written about the “power of public speaking,” so I know I’m not inventing something here. But from a very personal perspective, allow me to share my personal three rules of success.
Rule #1: Keep your message simple.
This is possible, only when you know what you want to say and have a strong conviction about it. Listen, people often get up on stage all the time and wander all around their message, trying not to offend anyone, or trying to soften its impact to make it credible to all viewpoints in the room. Sometimes they try to bring the audience through the thinking they themselves had to go through to get to their final point. The worst one, sometimes they bury their audience in data, hoping the data will somehow translate itself. At least make them look more simple and sophisticated. In all cases, the result is almost invariably confusing.
The best presentations do not make the audience chase the message. They have a strong crucial point, expressed in clear, unambiguous language. With strong supporting arguments that evaluate and make sense of the data. Sure, at the end, a few people may disagree with your conclusion. But that’s a lot better than leaving most people confused.
Rule #2: Tell your audience something they never heard before.
I’m always amazed when a manager comes into a board presentation and basically repeat materials that all of us have already received by email. Likewise, I’ve seen too many speeches and presentations where the person on the stage repeats a well-known message and the stories to go with it, or simply reads from his or her slides.
Every time you speak in front of a crowd or a group, your job is to surprise and delight. You have to give people information that are new and interesting, and make them feel smarter. Now, this doesn’t happen without preparation. It doesn’t happen without you really asking yourself, “What can I say that will give the audience some kind of information about how all this stuff matters to the company, the industry and their lives?”
Giving a public presentation is not about giving a point of view so that people go, “Hmm, not really,” and move along. It’s about encouraging exciting conversations that go on long after you’re done talking.
Rule #3: Share your passion.
I don’t get it, but there’s a popular thinking that speakers gain credibility by appearing pensive and logical, like a 3-star general giving testimony before Congress. Obviously, I’m not completely averse to those affects. But, I am saying that you gain more than you lose when you unleash your inner fire in front of an audience, and show your emotions and how much you care about the topic at hand.
Today when I give a public presentation, it is always my most passionate stories that get the most engagement. One of my most urgent messages to leaders and managers is that they have to get into the skin of their employees. They need to understand their minds and hearts so they can excite them about, and give purpose to the work.
So don’t over-complicate your content, enlarge the brains of your listeners with context and insight, and show them how you really feel.
Next thing you know, public presentation will be as exciting for you as it is for the people listening, with one big added bonus, a boost to your career trajectory.