Remember the last time you were at a comedy club… maybe it was at an open mic night . . . and one of the acts just wasn’t funny? Remember how it felt? Chances are the uneasiness was palatable, audience members were looking everywhere but at the comedian and everyone was hoping for a quick recovery.
Speakers can find themselves in a similar predicament. There are so many things that can go wrong when you are presenting — tripping, losing your train of thought, or a technology snafu. It is how a speaker responds to the situation that will determine the success (or failure) of the presentation! If the speaker is awkward and apologetic, listeners feel uneasy. If a speaker projects a sense of confidence, reassuring the audience that “the situation is under control” listeners will be relieved, dismiss the incident and be attentive to the speaker.
Fortunately, there are some simple tips that can help any presenter speak with authority as well as engage and inspire an audience. Some of these tips may sound so easy that you will be tempted to ignore them. Don’t! Use all three to ensure you speak with confidence, credibility and conviction.
1) Prime the Pump. Every speaker I have ever worked with talks about how nervous they feel when they step up to speak. The truth is, listeners rarely see sweaty palms, a palpitating heart or shaking knees. It is helpful to recognize that fears are exaggerated in the mind of the speaker. “Prime the pump”, by believing in yourself, your message, and the urgency of your message. Start replacing self-defeating thoughts (head trash) with positive and productive thoughts, such as:
- I know my subject inside and out and the audience will really benefit from this talk
- My rehearsal went well and I look forward to sharing this with my audience
- I know what I need to say and have found an interesting way to say it
2) Keep a Bold Face. Your presence should communicate that you can manage anything that is thrown your way. Stuff happens:
- Your mind goes blank. Instead of over-apologizing, simply take a moment to collect your thoughts and then proceed.
- Forget to show the video clip? Keep your composure and let the listeners know you’d like to take a moment to prepare a video clip that will illustrate your point, then move on.
- You trip while walking on stage. Pick yourself up; look directly at your audience and smile, reassuring them you are “good and ready to go”, then forge ahead.
No matter what is thrown your way, the show must go on . . . the point to remember here is not to draw attention to what went wrong. Simply keep a bold face and move on with your presentation.
3) Think-the-Thought. How can you expect listeners to get excited about your message if you’re not excited yourself? Mindlessly reading from your notes is always obvious. It comes across as lifeless because you’re not thinking about what you’re saying. For example, if you are reflecting on a certain topic, take the time to pause and reflect while describing the scenario to your audience. Staying in the moment — being truly present — and thinking about what you are saying makes listeners want to take the time and effort to listen rather than daydream. Remember, to “Think-the-thought” and “stay personally engaged” or your listeners will tune out.
Your audience always wants you to succeed. Few things are more painful than watching a presenter in trouble. When you step up to speak, remember, you’re talking to a room full of your biggest fans, so follow these tips and project an authority that lets your audience know you have everything “under control.”