Six preparation tips for great public speaking

1st January, 2015

Public speaking fears

According to a study by Newspoll in 2008, 23 percent of Australians rate public speaking as their biggest fear. Death only slightly beats it, with 27 percent of respondents fearing death. Pretty alarming, isn’t it?

For me, public speaking isn’t something I fear; rather it is one of my favourite things to do. However, that hasn’t always been the case. I have studied it, had the opportunity to attend training to improve my skills and am constantly looking to hone my techniques by watching others.

In the first post of this guide, I have summed up a few of the things I have learnt about preparing for great presentations. In the second post, I will share six tips I have learnt for delivering an effective and entertaining presentation.

1. Research your audience

Understanding your audience, the challenges and opportunities ahead of them, and most importantly why you have been invited to present to them should always be the first step in your presentation preparation. Skipping this risks your presentation being off the mark or irrelevant.

2. Have a point of view

Spend time thinking about the one thing you want your audience to walk away with. This will ensure your presentation is focused and doesn’t waffle off a whole lot of things you already know. It is often a good idea to introduce the points you want people to take away from your presentation at the very start, and return to it at the end.

3. Plan your supporting materials

Slides via PowerPoint or Keynote can be highly effective as support devices for your presentation, but far too often people are let down by their slides. Keep them text light—a good way of doing this is using a font 30pt or bigger. Spend time to ensure your visuals are impactful and support the points you are making perfectly. Avoid starburst and pointless visuals between slides. See my previous posts for more detail on making great PowerPoint presentations.

4. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse!

There is nothing worse than a presentation that goes over its allotted time, or a speaker who is obviously not prepared. Present in front of your colleagues and family. Listen to their feedback and make changes. A poorly rehearsed presentation has no value for the audience and can damage your reputation.

5. Use humour

In my experience, even the most serious presentations allow for the injection of appropriate moments of humour. Self-deprecating humour works for me, who am not exactly comedians.

6. Use anecdotes to support your points

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but an anecdote is worth a whole lot more. People have been engaging with stories since they were the tiniest children. Information delivered through anecdotes and stories is not only more effective, it is more engaging and entertaining.

Stay tuned for my second post on this (out next month), where I will share tips on delivering on the day.