In the last couple weeks I have done a little bit of speaking and had the pleasure of seeing some great speakers. Public speaking is one of those things that I don’t love but I know I have to work hard on it. I think public speaking is a required skill set, especially as you work your way up the ladder. Sometimes it is as easy as providing training, other times you may be trying to persuade a group to give you more HR budget dollars or to give the green light to a new system or process.
With this in mind, I’ve put together a few do’s and don’ts to help you out next time you have to speak in front of a group.
- Think – Think about your topic and your audience. Is this required training? Is it a voluntary session? Is the topic interesting? How can you make it more interesting? How can you make it relevant your audience? Can you interact with the audience? How?
- Practice, Practice, Practice – did you read that? Seriously, please practice your presentation. I don’t mean just clicking through your slides…stand up and speak the presentation out loud. If you can get access to the room you will be speaking in it is even better to try out the presentation there.
- Encourage interaction – this can be difficult depending on the topic but basically if someone is sitting in your presentation it is because they do something that is relevant to your topic. Encourage interaction by asking questions, if you can develop an exercise to wake people up that works out well too (great example of this is the HR Flash Mob that Talent Anarchy does).
- Tell stories that are relevant to the topic. I use this in a couple different ways: first it makes a connection with the audience, they feel like they know me but also I do this to illustrate the topic that I’m talking about (kind of like when I tell a personal story on my blog to illustrate a point).
- Don’t worry – really stop worrying that everyone knows how nervous you are. They really don’t, it has been documented.
- Don’t focus on what ifs – If you are like me you are probably stressing about everything: “what if I forget something?” Don’t memorize every single part of your speech, if you do that you will freak out if you forget something. Instead, make sure you know the basic concepts you are talking about and can speak to them. Don’t dream up nightmare what if scenarios just take a deep breath and don’t let those thoughts linger.
- Interrupt a response to your question – as long as the person speaking isn’t hogging the conversation or saying inappropriate things of course. I love it when I have a room full of talkers it gives me a chance to take a breath.
- Skip the water – maybe this is just me but I am in awe of people that can talk for an hour without taking a sip of water. If I don’t drink water, I start to sound like a frog…talk about nerve wracking. Even if you don’t think you need water just keep a glass handy.
What about you? What has experience taught you about public speaking? I’d love to hear your advice, drop it in the comments below.