By Devan Moonsamy, CEO of The ICHAF Training Institute
Effective presentation skills are vital for all who are or who aspire to be leaders. According to Forbes Magazine, certain presentations can be career defining.
Here are a few rules and tips for becoming a better speaker.
- Never wing it! If it’s important, or even if it would simply be some good practice, ensure you are fully prepared and that you practice what you are going to say numerous times.
- During your speech, don’t draw attention to your nervousness by speaking about it. People will quickly forgive and forget signs of nervousness, such as stuttering, if you stick to your topic. Focus on the task at hand, rather than your own shortcomings, and you will earn your audience’s respect.
- To counter nervousness, you must also ensure authenticity. Being yourself is much less stressful and more believable than trying to be someone else, so speak from your heart. Try to convey genuine warmth and a sense of contentment in order to make the audience comfortable with you. Calmness, combined with alertness, will also go a long way to winning the audience’s confidence.
- Ask yourself the following questions before you begin planning what you are going to say:
What am I trying to accomplish? What impact do I want to have on my audience?
For example, do you want to inform your team of new changes to your organisation or to motivate your clients to buy into your brand or do you need to persuade a potential employer of your ability to fulfil the role you have applied for?
Keep the ultimate purpose and desired outcome in mind from the preparation phases right through to the delivery.
- Simplify everything. When we write sentences down, they tend to be longer than the sentences we would naturally say out aloud. If you are writing your speech down, bear in mind that convoluted, lengthy sentences will sound irregular when verbalised. Furthermore, condense your ideas and keep them simple so that they will be easier to follow.
- Consider the size of your audience and the context. Find out exactly where your presentation will be held and what is available for you to use. Prepare for background challenges, logistics and technical requirements.
- You may need to vary the subject and return to it again later if necessary so that you don’t bore the audience. For example, if you need to persuade a potential client to hire you, do not concentrate on yourself too much. Refer to the client’s needs, to the product or service and to the company you work for. Ask questions if possible and address the listener’s concerns.
- Use props sparingly, including PowerPoint slides. You need to hold the audience’s attention and keep their focus mainly on you. Make sure your slides do not diverge from what you are saying, or you will confuse your audience. All slides must be precise and easy to read, even for those who are right at the back of the room.
A great way to make sure you are on the right track is to record yourself delivering the presentation. You will quickly pick up on problems you would not otherwise have noticed. You could do this for the next speech or presentation you need to give or as an exercise to practice and identify problems now. In the latter case, select a topic that you know quite a bit about.
Remember that the audience will notice your facial expressions, gestures and how you stand and move. When you watch the video, identify areas where you can use gestures or points at which you may lose the attention of the audience. Correct this by varying your vocal tone and adding some appropriate and tasteful humour and wit. If you slouch, the quickest way to correct this is the dancer’s trick of aligning the hip and pubic bones vertically.
Record yourself again and check that you are implementing the changes effectively.
Devan Moonsamy runs the ICHAF Training Institute, and he is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, AND My Leadership Legacy Journal available from the ICHAF Training Institute.
ICHAF offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.