I wouldn’t describe public speaking as a fun thing to do. Typically, it’s a specific skill set we acquire; and only then with a ‘needs must’ mindset.
The latest public speaking engagement I fulfilled proved to be my best to date. I can say that with certainty because the audience feedback endorsed it unanimously.
In fact, public speaking ‘can’ be impactful and enjoyable in equal measure. So, here’s how I did it:
THERE WERE NO NOTES: Of course I had notes. The difference was I didn’t have them in front of me, in any format, whilst talking. In the past I have tried holding cue cards. Then I’ve had a briefing page next to me. I’ve even made full trainer notes available before now. None of those approaches worked for me. Primarily, because once I start speaking I go off piste; rendering the notes useless!
POWER POINT SLIDES WERE MINIMAL: We’ve all heard the expression ‘death by Power Point’. So, I’ve resisted using it altogether. This time I used ‘a few’ slides. And I was a little more creative with them. Next time I’ll be more creative still.
CONTENT WAS JUST ENOUGH: The principle of ‘less is more’ applies here. At this conference each speaker had a 40 minute slot. Since I was up first, running over wasn’t an option. So, I took time to map out the key messages. And I made sure the content reflected what was needed; no more than that.
SCRIPT WAS WELL PRACTISED: I used to run out of time to rehearse. I’d feel like I was winging it. The reality was I’d spent hours thinking about the audience; and their requirements. Then I’d worked on getting the content just right. This time I also factored in enough time to run through the script. The result was an ‘impromptu’ presentation (at least that’s how it felt); and that has proved to be a game-changer for me.
AUDIENCE WERE ENGAGED: A good presentation should always begin with an ‘audience grabber’ of some kind. My opening gambit gained their attention. Many of them looked up from their notebooks in surprise; which is how I knew. It was relatively easy to hold their attention after that.
‘I’ ENJOYED THE PRESENTATION: Full of nervous excitement beforehand; I don’t think that will ever change. Nevertheless, I knew I was prepared. Actually, I was quite relaxed beforehand. I was able to enjoy the experience from the moment I stood up in front of the audience. And I can‘t tell you the difference it made being able to relax into it. I was able to immerse myself in the experience rather than getting antsy about it.
There are two reasons I managed to make all of these improvements. Firstly, I put in the legwork; which included finding the self-motivation to make those changes. Secondly, I allowed enough time to practice. So, when it was my opportunity to ‘perform’, I felt calm and confident; certain that I would be able to remember the important messages.
Consequently, when some of the logistics didn’t go to plan (we all know how technology can be); and the materials promised weren’t forthcoming, it didn’t throw me off my game.
There will always be ‘uncontrollables’ in a potentially stressful situation like this one. No doubt, these would have impacted on my ability to perform. By nailing all the elements I could control in advance; I ensured a positive outcome.
There is a trade off or consequence to everything we do. I learned that the extra preparation time guaranteed a relaxed and engaging presentation. It was one that I enjoyed. And more importantly, the audience enjoyed it to. I love it when everyone benefits!