Hack Public Speaking with this Simple Process
The only thing that is constant in life… is change. If you are not changing, everything else around you will, which means you are left behind.
If you’ve been following this series of articles you already know how to prepare for a presentation and how to deliver it to leave the audience wanting more. If you are reading this is because you know that being a great public speaker will help you take your career to the next level.
Let’s get to it! The steps we’ve covered so far:
Yet, the presentation is not done after you’ve finished talking. The show must go on!
Ideally, if the presentation is great, you should share it with as many people as you can.
Good material should be kept and repurposed. In business, we are like comedians, but our material is not jokes. If we have a good analogy, a good story, or something that created an amazing reaction during our presentation, then we should keep that material.
Also, some of our material might have resonated but we know that if we would’ve made a small tweak (maybe a small pause, or raising our voice a bit) the reaction would’ve been much better.
That is exactly what we will do now. The presentation ends when you debrief. When you analyze it to understand what went right (and keep doing it), what went wrong (and stop doing it), and what needs to be improved. If you are not measuring and improving, you might as well not present at all.
You could improve the visuals, add some appendix slides depending on the questions you got, or maybe improve the delivery a bit. Without a doubt, you will always find something valuable to add to what you already have.
Let’s explore how to do that in an efficient and effective way.
Improving is an Endless Process
Presentations should be fun, especially, if you prepared properly. You have the opportunity to share your knowledge, add value to people’s lives, and let’s be honest, you get to be the center of attention.
Yet, your presentation process must continue past the last PowerPoint slide. You should constantly improve your process, delivery, and overall style.
The single best technique I have used to develop as a presenter is to immediately debrief. Time has a funny way of altering our thought process both positively and negatively. A week or two may pass and you think you bombed a presentation or knocked it out of the park. However, in that passage of time, we seem to forget details.
I debrief as quick as I can to counter the impact of time on my memory. As I drive away from a presentation, I think through the entire event.
- Did I greet people as they came in?
- Were there any issues with technology?
- Did I have a good opening?
- How were my transitions?
- Did I engage with the audience?
- Did I stick with my time limits?
- Did I stay to get reactions from the audience?
Beyond those questions, I really try to think through the eyes of the audience. How was I perceived and did the audience leave feeling like their time was well spent listening to me speak?
It has taken me years to get comfortable with public speaking, and the main reason I have this comfort is that I constantly work on improvements. Critique is not always enjoyable, but it is important to develop as a person and professional.
Take the time to go over your presentations mentally and, ideally, get feedback from others. You will be amazed by how quickly you advance as a speaker when you are willing to go through growing pains.
There is always something you can improve.
- Better transitions
- Stronger closing
- Adding strong call-to-actions
- Creating collateral material for your presentation
These are just some of the things that we’ve been able to improve even after doing hundreds of presentations.
An ideal situation would be to have someone videotape you while you are presenting. You’ve probably heard the term “watching tape” that athletes refer to. Doing so allows them to identify strengths (and keep doing them) and weaknesses (and minimize these).
In business, we could do the same. If you have the resources (or a great friend that volunteers) then you should always be videotaping yourself when you speak. You could also tell someone before you begin to watch for things that you want to improve. Maybe it’s to count the numbers of “uhms” or “likes” that you say, if you are working on eliminating these.
If there is someone in the audience that you know is a great public speaker, then, by all means, ask for their feedback after your presentation. Any feedback is always valuable, but feedback from an expert will be more specific.
You can also rely on yourself. Sometimes you will have a gut feeling of the things that didn’t go as well. As you get better, with more practice, you will be able to identify areas that you can improve. You won’t identify everything, nothing beats having someone else watch you, yet your intuition will improve with time and practice.
Always Be Learning!
Another thing that is very valuable to do is to keep your presentations, and topic, in mind while you read and study other topics. Because you will be able to create valuable connections.
I usually read between 2 to 4 books a month. This has allowed me to add valuable stories, and data, to my presentations and workshops. It might also be something you pick up from a TED Talk, and then you adapt it to your presentation.
Doing so will keep your material current and will make it valuable even for people that might have already listened to it. Remember, we are like comedians but our topic is business. Just like comedians keep their great jokes, and find ways to bring them back or incorporate into new shows we should do the same with our stories, statistics, or anecdotes.
Whenever you find a story, metaphor, or anything that you find valuable be sure to write it down or have a system to store this information. My personal process is to take notes and make marks with post-it flags when I’m reading.
We recently conducted a Networking Bootcamp where we helped people learn effective networking techniques. This was done through a presentation where we went through the process which was explained in the article series.
The process works! But it does take practice and learning from others.
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