We’ve all been in the audience when a presenter gets on stage and manages to get everyone interested in what they’re saying. You can probably also remember a time when the presenter has difficulty engaging with the audience, and the eyes of those in the audience begin to glaze over. For many people without public speaking experience, it can be difficult to avoid the latter scenario, but with practice, anyone can captivate an audience.
As a business professional, chances are, you’ll need to deliver a speech or presentation at some point in your career, whether it’s pitching to clients or speaking to a large group. Excelling in communication and having public speaking expertise can help advance your career and impress your peers, but it’s also a skill that many people struggle with mastering and try to avoid entirely. The following advice will allow you to build off of your current skills to prepare for a speech and captivate the audience regardless of the subject matter of the presentation.
Structure your speech
Before you step into the hall full of people or conference room with clients, you should think about the structure of your speech. If you know what kind of people will be in the audience, think about what they might like to hear, what information they would benefit from hearing, and why they are there in the first place.
Start out strong
The first sentence of a book is arguably the most important because it piques the reader’s interest and allows them to commit to reading the entire book. The same principle also applies to crafting your presentation. When you begin your speech, you want to start out with a strong statement, alarming fact or fascinating statistic, or you could even ask an open-ended question that will appeal to the audience’s interest. More often than not, people choose to open their presentations with “Hello” or “Thank you,” but you should consider starting right out of the gate with something compelling.
Tell relevant stories
It’s natural for people to want to hear stories. Just by saying, ”Let me tell you a story..” will get the audience to tune into what you say next. Obviously, you’ll want the stories you tell to be relevant to your speech, but they should also be anecdotal or absorbing in nature, so they engage the crowd. If you aren’t sure whether or not to include a story, it’s best to have one as a backup in case the audience begins losing interest in your speech.
Practice your tone
If you’re not well-versed in presenting to a group of people, your nerves may get the better of you during the speech. As a business professional, you’ll want to come off as confident in the information you’re giving, but if you’re nervous you’ll appear unsure and even incompetent. Before delivering your speech, practice it several times in front of a mirror or even a group of friends. Make sure to practice your tone, pitch, and how fast you talk so that the audience will stay engaged in what you’re saying.
Finish with a call to action
You should make sure to finish your speech as strong as you started it with an inspiring call to action. Throughout your presentation, you’ll have described your subject matter and why the audience should care, and the conclusion should give them an idea of what to do with the information you just spoke on.