Let me start with a caveat that I’m not an expert presenter. But after presenting to small and large crowds and having attended numerous talks and conferences, I can safely say I’m entitled to share an opinion on how to be a more dynamic speaker.
I’m not going to talk about the obvious pointers like standing up straight, projecting your voice, making eye contact etc.. Those are general pointers that come with practice. Here are two things I’ve tried that have helped me practice:
- Video tape yourself: look for eye contact, facial expressions, posture, hand gestures, and variations in your voice. Its shocking to see how you look when delivering your speech, its quite different than how you may feel. Use this as a guide to help you improve.
- Practice in front of various groups or individuals, not to get their feedback, but to lose your nervousness or anxiety of presenting in general.
Let’s dig deeper though, there are other recurring things that I have noticed speakers do that make their talk mediocre and sometimes annoying.
- Drinking the “Koolaid” and pushing propaganda. This occurs usually when there is someone coming to talk about their product or brand masked behind a clever title to the talk. The problem is, people generally don’t like to be directly sold to, we prefer value and compelling information that could help us. Usually the presentation has the brand name plastered all over the place, we get it, your product rocks. But can you share some secrets, tricks, tips and/or anything useful we can actually use?
- A lack of understanding of who the audience is. In most cases, an audience represents a specific group of people, whether that be talented technology entrepreneurs in their mid-twenties in Silicon Valley or first year University science students. Whatever it is, you have to take the time to understand what would that audience wants to hear. In most cases, its best to assume your audience is intelligent and understands the basics or the foundation of the application you’re speaking of. When you eliminate the obvious, you’re left with actual meat that you can elaborate on, this is far more useful and interesting to the audience.
- Talking too much about theory and hypothetical situations. Unless, you’re a lecturer teaching a course, this is not relevant. The best speakers are those that share real life stories filled with experiences and wisdom. The purpose being that the audience can learn from mistakes or apply lessons to their own lives. Furthermore, in the case of business applications, I’d rather know a specific (real world) example and how it was successful (or not) than random features I could read off the website.