A good public speech happens in the wonderful intersection between your ideas, your audience, and you. That “you” is super-important.
So many times, when we're assigned to give a presentation, we think that our job is just to be accurate and comprehensive. We make our slides. We rehearse our points. We hope that, if we deliver the material accurately and comprehensively, we can somehow disappear behind that material. But that's the opposite of how it should be.
If all you're doing is reading or reciting your material, you don't need to be there. Save yourself (and everyone else!) the time and just email your deck.
You're making this speech because you add value to the information. So act like it. Add value to the presentation of the information by giving some of yourself to it. There are lots of ways to think about this. Let's look at two:
- ONE: Since you know your material so well, don't read it. And cut most of your deck, if you're using one.
Let your deck, with whatever bells & whistles remain, support your work in communicating with your audience. The slides are there to support you, not the other way around. And don't type your speech out and read it word-for-word. This is important for a number of reasons:
- if you put all of your information on your slides, they will be unreadable.
- if you put all of your information on your slides, you will be tempted to read them.
That is a big mistake. You should not read from your slides. You should not read from notes (you can have an outline, however.) When you read your notes/slides, you make it harder for yourself to listen to how your presentation is going over with the audience, making you less present. You will be much more interesting to the audience if you actively work to connect your ideas to each other and to the audience without relying on notes.
If this feels more daunting, that's because it is. But it's a risk that offers great rewards, in terms of winning over your audience.
- TWO: Find ways that you connect with the material.
When you speak in public, there are always two topics: the topic you have chosen, and the relationship you develop with the audience while you speak about the topic. Your can draw the audience closer to you by giving them a speaker who has an interesting story to tell. This means personalizing your approach to the material. Given the topic you have to speak about, what are the relevant personal experiences you can share which quickly add value by translating ideas into specific examples that resonate with the audience?
If you're making a wedding toast, and are talking about how wonderful the bride is, what's a personal story about the two of you that shows that?
If presenting on the hazards of workplace office chemicals, and this material seems painfully obvious to you and everyone else, what personal story could you tell to gain some common ground with your audience? (I am reminded of a friend who regularly stole his mother's car at the age of fourteen for weekend joyrides. He was never caught. Then he turned sixteen and he had to pretend to be clueless when his mother “taught” him to drive. But, you know what? She taught him to be a better driver!)
It can take a little brainstorming, but everything you need to knock your speech out of the park is already within you. Connect to the material. Connect to the audience. And if you want a little practice, contact MUSE today.