No matter how well crafted a speech or any other type of message may be, effective presentation skills are absolutely key to gaining and retaining the eager attention of the person or people to whom you are speaking.
While most people think of presentation skills as how effectively you speak while communicating your message, I would like to touch on some of the practical things you can do to make it much easier to speak with confidence and ease.
This advice presupposes that you have created an effective message to present; and deals with how you prepare it, so that you can access it easily during your presentation.
Strategy #1 – Use an Outline, Not a Script, for Your Speech
We have all probably endured listening to someone reading a speech. It is generally not an enthralling experience.
The fact of the matter is that, unless you are a gifted actor or voice actor, it is highly unlikely that you can read your speech in anything but a fairly tedious manner that will turn off your listeners within a couple of minutes.
You are much better off preparing an outline of your speech, listing the main points you want to make. You can then refer to them as needed, while presenting them in a far more interesting tone of voice than if you had simply read them off a sheet of paper.
Two exceptions to this tip:
Write out verbatim both your opening and closing sentences. You will benefit from this tip in two ways:
- You will have time to craft truly powerful opening and closing sentences, which are the parts of your speech people are most likely to remember.
- You will have the utter security of knowing both how you are going to start and how you are going to finish on a very strong note.
Strategy #2 – Use Large Print for Your Outline
You want to be able to take a quick glance at your outline as needed, and not have to take the time to squint at small print when you are in the midst of making an important point.
Strategy #3 – Drop Your Eyes, Not Your Chin, to Read Your Notes
This strategy has two advantages:
- Dropping your chin means that you are talking to the floor, not to the audience; so your voice gets lost, especially if you are using a microphone.
- If you simply slide each page or note card to the side when you are finished using it; people will often assume, and be very impressed, that you are speaking without notes (that is, if the podium hides what you are doing ).
Also, if you are writing your outline on an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper, leave the bottom third of the page empty. That way it will be much easier to see what is on the page by simply lowering your eyes, not your chin.
Strategy #4 – Number Your Note Cards or Pages
I once heard a horror story of someone who had crafted a wonderful speech, but dropped all of the pages just before having to deliver it. Since the pages were not numbered, you can just imagine the quandary that person was in. That person’s mistake has always been a lesson to me.
It is my firm belief that these simple and practical strategies provide a firm foundation for developing effective presentation skills. They can also help you overcome nervousness and gain confidence and ease in presenting your message in as powerful a way as possible.