Five ways to improve your presenting skills
Delivering a knockout presentation can be a transformative experience. We find out how you can overcome speech anxiety and win over your audience courtesy of the experts at Speaker Express.
Every month, Speaker Express hosts a club night at 116 Pall Mall. Founder Annik Petrou explains, “It is our monthly shop window. People can come along to meet and hear from our members. They can join in, get filmed and get the footage. They can promote themselves and they get the experience of doing it in front of a live audience. You don’t learn public speaking through PowerPoint. It’s through getting up on stage and doing it for yourself.”
Elliot Kay is the commercial director at Speaker Express. He says, “We know that with some slight tweaks and the right training that a business or an individual can make a real impact within an industry.”
Clients include Deepak Tailor, founder of MyLatestFreeStuff.co.uk. Deepak consulted Speaker Express prior to going on Dragon’s Den and received offers from three of the four Dragon’s. Speaker Express has also worked with Emily Hunt. In 2018, Emily won the Female Speaking Award for Most Influential Speaker of the Year.
Over the coming months, we will be running a series of articles around the art of public speaking and how it can boost your business as well as your personal profile.
We begin with Annik and Elliot giving five essential tips that will instantly make you better at presentations…
1. Understand the Importance of a Disruptor
Annik: We ran a big conference a few weeks ago and we realised there are still too many people who start off by tapping the mic and saying, ‘can you hear me?’ or ‘thank you for having me’.
For a team presentation, it often ends up with somebody rambling when that team wants to be inspired and motivated. I used to work for a company that had this charismatic leader. But when he got up to do a speech at Christmas he was fumbling around and couldn’t look anybody in the eye. I felt that at that moment he lost some of his credibility.
Elliot: You want to start with what we would call a ‘disruptor’. In other words, it is something that will grab the audience’s attention. It could be a killer statistic, a joke, a powerful question... If it’s a team presentation then, instead of saying ‘nice to see you all today’, you could start with ‘what is the biggest challenge facing us right now?’. It creates a cognitive jump, hooks people in really quickly, and makes them think about what you’re going to say next.
2. Focus on the audience
Elliot: Always establish credibility. If you’re being introduced, that will normally give you instant credibility but if you’re not then people need to know why they should be listening to you. There are three key questions that go through the minds of an audience and it doesn’t matter if you’re talking for 10 minutes or an hour.
What’s in it for me?
Why should I care?
Can I trust you?
So it’s really important that you’re addressing those unconscious objections. Always show that you understand their problem, that they can trust you through your results and here’s your system.
3. Prepare for your perfect pitch
Elliot: The most important thing when you are pitching is the clarity of what you are selling. Everybody thinks their product is amazing, everybody thinks they’ve got the next big thing. Do I get it as an investor or as a potential market? Be clear and concise. No fluff. Clarity on numbers.
Annik: When Deepak went on Dragon’s Den, he prepared by getting his friends to ask him really tough questions and then he worked on articulating the answers. You could see from his pitch that he had an answer for every question. It’s almost as if he knew what was coming next. In the end, he didn’t even need the investment!
Elliot: The other thing to think about is whether you are the right person to do it. Sometimes you can be too close to the product, and sometimes you might need to bring somebody in who is slightly more removed.
4. Don’t make it all about yourself
Elliot: Even if you want to tell a story about yourself, which could be a story of bad luck or misfortune, do it from a position of strength. The audience wants to hear how you overcame a problem. If you can do it, they can do it. Always speak from a healed scar, not an open wound.
5. What you can do if you forget your lines
Annik: If I’m about to have a blank I just say to the audience, ‘I want you to really think about what I’ve just said.’ It gives them time to process but also it gives me time to think about what I’m going to say next.
It gives you breathing space.
If I really lose the plot, then I would say, ‘just for a minute, turn to the person to your right or to your left and have a quick chat about what you’ve learned so far.’ Then you can look at your slides or your notes and you can get back on track.
Elliot: If you feel you’re losing them, you could say, ‘I’m just going to pause for a moment to take three questions. Who has a burning question about what I’ve discussed?’ Then you’re re-engaging your audience.
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