Your public speaking ability can be an asset or a liability. Asking yourself these key questions before you engage your audience can make all the difference.
The biggest challenge for a newer sales team might be how they actually feel when they give presentations. Many first-time speakers want to feel confident, want to engage their audience and want to feel good about delivering their presentation. But how is this achieved?
Public speaking can change you as a person and boost your confidence. You will learn how to express yourself clearly and get your message across. Being able to speak in front of an audience is a key ingredient of success. From delivering a formal speech to attending business meetings and answering questions for your boss, public speaking is an important part of your career and the benefits can be huge.
In a survey taken by more than 50 business sales professionals during a presentation skills training workshop, key questions and concerns on how to become a confident public speaker were highlighted. Their 10 main concerns are as follows:
1. Does the audience really listen, or do they just read the PowerPoint slides? It is good practice to keep your PowerPoint presentation to less than one hour, and to use the slides to enhance your speech. The less information you place on the slide, the better. Two to three bullet points tends to work best. Don’t read the slides, but rather keep them simple and over a white background, as many people print out the presentation. Ask the audience for questions as you go along so that they feel engaged.
2. How many head and hand movements are too many? Recognizing that more than half of all human communication takes place nonverbally, audiences judge us based on what they hear and see. It’s important to have control over your body language. Movement has to be supportive of the message. Your head, eyes and facial expressions usually convey your true feelings, so it’s important to communicate with sincerity in order to connect with your audience. Your hands can be used to express emotion and to emphasize a point; don’t keep them in your pockets or behind your back.
3. How do I gain confidence and keep people entertained? It is important to talk about a subject you enjoy and that you know really well so that you can improvise and keep things light. By being yourself and telling a personal story or using appropriate humor, the audience will relate to you more easily. Confidence comes with practice and your ability to give a speech with your own personal touch.
4. How do I prevent my face from getting red right before the speech? Visualize yourself giving a successful speech. Remain excited to share your information with your audience. Remember that the audience is interested in what you have to say and that they are your friends. Be sure to take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth before walking up to the microphone.
5. How do I handle client questions/interruptions? In order to control an audience and prevent them from interrupting your speech, it’s best to begin by stating a simple outline, such as how long the speech will take and giving a reminder to please turn off all cell phones. Make it very clear as to if and when you would like to hold a question-and answer-session, and then begin your speech.
6. How can I create more opportunities to practice my speech? It’s important to practice your speech as if there is an audience in front of you. This makes your speech important, and you can feel the pressure. Try to practice during a lunch break or create a group of two or three coworkers who also have to give a speech. That way you have support and are able to receive feedback from your peers.
7. How do I improve my openings and closings? Make sure you practice your openings and closings until you feel completely confident. Some people open with a quote or statistics, or ask a question to the audience. When closing, be sure to include a call to action and summarize your speech with a personal experience so that the audience can relate to your story.
8. What are the most common mistakes made in public speaking? Because speaking is an acquired skill, it’s important to prepare and rehearse so that you leave a great impression. Remember not to read your speech word for word, but rather summarize key points. Share your enthusiasm on your subject and be sure to take the time to personally meet several audience members before and after your present.
9. How do I avoid the first five minutes of anxiety? To relieve nervous tension, try stretching and take a few deep breaths. Pretend to hear your favorite motivational song playing in your head to give you a sense of empowerment. Remember to smile when you begin your speech.
10. How do I make my speech stand out? It’s imperative to have an emotional connection with your audience by sharing your personal experiences so that your speech will be memorable. Try sharing a case study or telling a story about your experiences. Be sure to include a brief explanation of who you are and your past accomplishments to establish credibility.
It’s important to address these 10 presentation skills challenges so that your sales team will feel more confident when giving a speech. Being able to express yourself in a clear, confident manner is essential to your success. As you build your skills and gain confidence, you’ll learn how to plan and deliver presentations in a professional manner. After practicing and honing your presentation skills, you’ll be able to speak confidently to both small and large audiences.
Scott Topper, three-time Emmy-nominated TV show host and corporate improv skills coach, helps organizations and individuals learn business improvisational skills and theatrical techniques to achieve better sales presentation results and gain confidence through fun, interactive workshops. Topper offers a monthly coaching mentoring newsletter and has authored more than 30 public speaking books, audio books, workbooks, DVDs and downloadable courses. For more information, contact Topper at www.improsolutions.com, 818.640.6100, or firstname.lastname@example.org.