Ah, the hazy, lazy days of summer. I hope they’ve not been too crazy. We kick back and relax with family and friends. We grab a little holiday, if we can.
But don’t relax too much. If you are serious about making speeches and presentations, this is a great time to take stock of what you’ve been doing in the past, and how you want to refine and upgrade those skills when business gets busy again in the Fall.
Take an objective look at your past presentations. What did you do really well? What can you build on? What helped you get your message across to your audiences?
What were the obstacles to your success? Can you identify any recurring problems? Are you continuing to reinforce a bad habit every time you get up to speak?
Here are some things to look for:
- Is your message always clear, so the audience is left in no doubt about your purpose? Are you always careful to define your controlling idea to yourself, before you try to communicate it to others? Or do you sometimes assume that because your message is clear to you, audiences will find it equally easy to comprehend?
- Are you using ‘I’ more often than ‘you’ when you speak? If you are, you might be inadvertently distancing yourself from your audience. Try to use the word ‘you’ more often that you use ‘I’. It’s more inclusive.
- Are your sentences long and rambling. Check your scripts. If your sentences consistently contain 15 words or more you may be losing the audience? If your sentences consistently have 20+ words you are in trouble. Review your sentence structure. Aim for 7 – 10 words per sentence. They are easier to deliver, easier for the audience to process, and the pauses help you control your breathing and pacing.
- Are you using words that are meant to impress the audience rather than help them understand you? Impact and power comes from simplicity, not complexity.
- What’s your opening, your hook, like? Do you begin with the standard “I’m so happy to be here. Thank you for inviting me. On our agenda today we have …”. If so, challenge yourself to try some more creative openings… openings that get your audience sitting forward in their seats, eager for more.
- Are you reading from your script? Or from your slides? Do you occasionally turn your back on the audience to read the text on your slides? Readers are not leaders. Get so comfortable with your material that you can make more eye contact with the audience.
- Are you pausing to give the audience time to absorb your words?
- Is your audience engaged throughout your whole presentation?
Once you’ve done an honest self-assessment, commit to making changes. Pick the most important thing you’d like to improve. Find a strategy to help you eliminate or control this obstacle. Check out our blogs to find suggestions there, or invest in our book to help you.
You don’t have to do too much; just work on one of two things that will make your presentations so much better this coming Fall.
Halina St James takes the worry out of presentations with her Present Like a Pro video training course. It’s available now from the Podium Coaching online store, together with her popular TalkitOut: From Fears to Cheers e-book and workbook.