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How to become a better presenter - 5 mistakes to avoid.

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So much of what we do, in everyday life as well as in business, relies on good presentation.

 

I recently attended a networking event at which the guest speaker was billed as giving a short talk. More than 30 minutes later (yawn) I had made up my mind that I would never use that particular business nor recommend them. Sadly, it was a lesson in “how not to grab the attention of your audience”.

 

Too L-O-N-G

Very DULL

Completely uninspiring

 

In short, boring content delivered without humour, charm, and - I’m sorry to say - enthusiasm!

A missed opportunity for the speaker.

 

It’s not just what you say, but how you say it!

 

There’s no escaping it, the judgements people make about us, often within seconds, aren’t just based on what we say and the words we use. Just as important are:

 

* our posture

* our tone of voice

* our gestures and body language

* our ability to make eye contact and inject a bit of humour

 

Last year I watched one of my sons give a presentation to his class, something children in Year 3 are required to do once a term at his school. I think it’s a fantastic life skill to start practising at an early age. Obviously he’s still learning about the art of public speaking, but one thing he’s definitely already mastered is the art of engagement. He didn’t just stick to what was safe and read from prepared notes. He thought about how he could bring some originality and fun to his talk and introduced a hand puppet. It worked. His classmates laughed. But they listened too.

 

I think there’s a lesson for us all in in that.

 

5 common mistakes in public speaking

 

1. Speaking with low energy

 

If you don’t give it a bit of oomph, you generally come across as unenthusiastic, uninteresting and possibly even uninterested. Give it more volume and more energy and you’ll command more attention, whilst projecting confidence and personality.

 

2. Using small movements and stilted gestures

 

People retreat into small movements when they’re nervous and lacking confidence. Lots of people who aren’t used to speaking to an audience are afraid to occupy too much space. Don’t be afraid to talk with your hands and use more expansive gestures. It comes across as more natural and relaxed.

 

3. Playing it safe

 

When they stand up in front of a group of people, many presenters avoid taking risks. Often they rely on the safety of slides rather than using them as an occasional visual aid. When your content is too safe and predictable, it can come across as boring.

 

4. Taking yourself too seriously

 

Often, because of nerves, speakers tend to come across as very serious and formal. Far better to let your personality shine through! It’s more engaging and let’s people get a glimpse of you as a person, not just a business bod. By speaking to your audience more informally, you’ll actually convey more confidence and show that you’re not intimidated by speaking. It’s also a lot more fun for you and your audience if you let the barriers down a bit.

 

5. Presenting too much material

 

If you’ve been asked to speak for 10 minutes, don’t witter on for 45. Though it’s a good idea to have more material than you need, in case you’re asked to fill extra time, you also need to know what you will cut and not feel compelled to wade through all your material regardless. If you want to estimate how much time your talk will take, practice on your feet and time yourself. Allow roughly an extra 25% to expand on certain areas if your audience seems interested in finding out out more or to allow for questions.

 

Lastly, don’t forget to pace yourself so your audience has time to digest what you say and so that you don’t trip over your words in a rush to deliver them. You’ll appear more poised and confident if you s-l-o-w-d-o-w-n!

 

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