Before You Speak
1. What do they want? How can you help them specifically?
Most polished public speakers will tell you that the first question you should always ask yourself before taking a speaking job is "Does this audience want what I've got?" Now, you're not exactly a professional public speaker but that doesn't mean you can't learn from the pros. Even when making a presentation to a leads group or Chamber of Commerce - know your audience. What do they need? What do you offer that will make a difference to them. Audiences are self-centered so everything you say needs to be tuned to what they need to hear.
2. Dress the part without raising yourself to high above the audience
We just said that the audience is mostly concerned about themselves so the last thing you want to do is increase the distance between you and them. One mistake people make is dressing inappropriately. This can mean wearing a polo shirt to a room full of people in suits or wearing your most expensive suit when talking to an audience of low income individuals. Speaking events are about the audience so be approachable and accessible. You'd hate for people to judge you negatively before you've even uttered a single word.
While You Speak
3. Make Eye Contact
Even if you're nervous, have an armful of notecards and a powerpoint presentation - you need to face the audience and look at them. This allows you to connect and helps SHOW you value them.
4. Talk With Them - Not AT them
All speeches should be conversations, even though you're the only one talking. You need to assess the audience on a personal level. It helps to acknowledge them--not in a vague way, in a specific way. "I'm delighted to be here" isn't as good as "I'm delighted to be here to talk with you." Be clear and direct.
5. Demonstrate that You Know What they Want
Don't hide behind what you offer. Show the audience that you know exactly what they need and how you WANT to solve their problems. Place a sense of importance on the issues that your audience faces and a sense of excitement regarding your services and the kind of progress you can achieve. Please note a sense of excitment does not mean "talk loud."
6. The Subject can be boring but the Story cannot be boring.
There's no doubt that you have a goal for this speech but remember that you are in control. What you are talking about might be boring but if the speech reflects that - you've lost. Paint a picture, weave in specifics and give the audience something to take away. Be memorable, useful - even if the tip is only loosely connected to the goal of your event. And of course - keep it moving. Don't take three sentences to get a point across when you could say it powerfully in one.
7. Be aware of what you do
Every movement on a stage is magnified. When you cross your legs, people notice. When you scratch your face, people notice. When you play a thumb war with yourself, people notice. So be cool. People see everything. Breathe. Don't be afraid of a pause just maintain your confidence.
8. The Wrap Up: Dealing with Questions and Silence
Depending on the audience and type of speech, it may be appropriate to ask if anyone has questions. It's possible you'll be met with silence. Remember how nervous you were to speak in front of people? Well many people who are sitting in chairs don't like to raise their hand and ask questions in front of people either. Try to make the environment more casual by sitting in a chair at the front of the stage. This is why it's so important to create a conversation atmosphere. It makes people feel comfortable to talk with you. If you do have several people with questions - maintain your control and stay on topic. Don't spend 10 minutes answering one person's question when you know there are 5 others. If a question dives off topic then offer to speak with that person individually.
8. Things You Should Never Say While Speaking About Your Company On a Stage
Is this thing on?
Can I get a witness? (even ironically)
A great man once said …
Are you picking up what I'm putting down?
Is anyone else warm?
Four score and seven years ago …
And then [pause] boom! It hit me!
In conclusion, I'd like to tell you a story. It all started way back in …
10. Some Technical Points to Make You aLook Like a Pro
Do not poll an audience of 10 or fewer people by a show of hands.
Do not imagine the audience in their underwear.
Do not imagine yourself in your underwear.
Do not look at your watch. If you start wondering how much time you have left, the audience will start wondering when you're getting off the stage.
Thank no more than three people at the beginning.
Keep your hands out of your pockets.
Unless you're a stand-up comedian. From the 1960s.
Do not close your eyes in a dramatic fashion at a key point in the speech.
Do not move your arms in a dramatic fashion at a key point in the speech.
Or your legs.
Or your hips.
Or someone else's arms, legs or hips.
Leave the pounding on the podium to the dictators.
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