One of life’s biggest fears is Public Speaking. People are mortified to embarrass themselves in front of others. And what better way to feel foolish than to bore one’s audience as a speaker?
Everyone has endured a presenter who drones on and on and on and on. Whether at school, a gala, church or the board room meeting- lackluster presentations are epidemic! Eyelids battle to stay open. Yawns are suppressed. Attendees may wish for a time machine to transport away from such a torturous situation.
The following five tools can help a speaker avoid inflicting similar pain when talking in front of a group:
- Know Your Topic– Ever experience “Death by Powerpoint “ – when the speaker reads slide after slide? Observing someone read is about as exciting as watching grass grow. Have enthusiasm for the topic! Audiences are acutely perceptive of a presenter’s topic knowledge or passion in the subject. Attendees mentally check out with texts, grocery lists and Googling the latest news on Zika or Ryan Lochte. A few bullet points are okay. Reading is definitely not!
- Know Your Audience– When presenting to a group of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) professionals, don’t deliver a talk with the bounce and flirtiness of an NFL cheerleader. Never try to baffle the audience with one’s brilliance. The speaker will come off as being condescending and make the audience feel inferior. Humbleness goes a long way in developing relationships- personally and professionally.
- Tell NEW Stories– Repeating old tales like “The Starfish” shows that the speaker hasn’t’ taken the time to find original material. Look in the news for relevant stories. Or share some of one’s own. This shows that the speaker is up-to-date and delivering a fresh talk. The audience remembers interesting stories more than a lecture brimming with facts and figures. Give attendees the opportunity to share their own similar experiences. This gives them a break from staring at the stage and feel less of a spectator to the event.
- Be Brief- Skilled presenters don’t need a lot of time to get to the point. That is why TEDx talks are so popular. The speaker cuts to the chase and succinctly educates the audience on the topic. Ever heard of “less is more?” It’s true. If a speaker is asked to go longer or shorter (within reason), they should do it. Being a team player, not a prima donna, is an attribute of a successful speaker. Add or cut stories to help meet the event’s time constraints.
- Use Humor– Everyone likes a chance to have a giggle. That doesn’t mean a talk needs to be a standup comedy routine. But giving the audience a chance to relax through a chuckle will let them have some fun while digesting the info being shared with them.
With these five tools, a presenter can abate the drool (of an uninspired audience) and avoid being a fool (boring speaker).
Karen Loucks Rinedollar is the Executive Director of Denver Speakers Bureau and a Speaking Coach. She is the Founder and Denver Coordinator of Project Linus, a professional speaker, author of Working for Peanuts: The Project Linus Story and Board Vice Chair of Hide in Plain Sight (scholarships for homeless high school students.) She shares a Colorado casa with her adventure-loving husband, a fortuitous black cat named Zuma and four death-defying goldfish.