Presenting content is a tall task. You not only have to collect, organize, format, and convey all the material in a way that makes sense, you also typically want to make sure you deliver it in a manner interesting enough to keep your audience’s attention. For me, this is accomplished by getting comfortable as a speaker.
Here a few of my personal tips for making your content delivery memorable, relatable, and effective.
Literally Get Comfortable
Aside from the logistical pre-check you’ll want to do days ahead of time (what equipment do they provide and what do you need to bring, are adaptors required for your laptop, do they plan on Q&A afterwards …), you’ll also want to look into the physical details and make sure they work for you.
Arrive early and check out the set-up. Ask if you’ll be using a lavalier microphone (one that clips into your clothing), a handheld microphone, or a mic attached to a podium — you can do this even before you arrive, but you’ll want to verify day-of. Next see where, and how, you will be standing. Or sitting. Behind a podium, alone on a stage, on a cushy chair or on a tall stool? If this arrangement won’t work for you, let the organizers know and suggest an alternative. For example, you can’t stand for the duration of the talk but they didn’t provide a speaker’s chair, so you’d like one brought up from the audience. If you’re using speaker notes on your laptop, make sure there’s a place to put your laptop near you. Make sure you have a bottle or a glass of water nearby as well. Be comfortable with your set-up.
Do Something with Your Hands
Our hands often betray our nervousness. Sometimes we just don’t know what to do with them. So put something in them. A clicker for my slide deck in one and either a microphone or a few note cards (even if they’re fake!) in the other keeps my fingers from fidgeting.
I’ve also started coming out from behind the podium, when there is one, and leaning against it. This allows me to drape one hand over the podium top (out of view) in a way that looks and feels more relaxed than standing behind it and gripping both sides.
Take a Walk
You should know your content well enough that you do not need all of your laptop’s speaker notes throughout the entire presentation. Start off, tell your key story, or make your closing statement from somewhere else on the stage than where you started. Moving around on stage makes you more visually interesting, and I’ve found it helps my nerves as well.
Allow for Little Moments of Honesty, But Don’t Dwell on Them
I “break character” a lot when I’m presenting. I’ll have a thought jump into my head (topically related) and go off script to share it with the audience. Tell your them about a time you failed at the thing you’re teaching them. Tell them about the time things went wrong. Get a little personal. But don’t go into the nitty gritty details, don’t drag out the explanation, and don’t, well, make it weird. Use it as a lesson, make it quick, and move on. Letting the audience “in” in this way makes you relatable as an instructor and makes the content feel more accessible.
Wrap It Up Decisively
For a long time, one of the trickiest things for me was closing out my talk. I’d sort of, generally, kind of indicate that this is therefore the last part of my speaking and so that’s the content I have for you today and I hope it was good.
Then one day I saw a keynote speaker make one final statement about her content, step forward slightly, and then say “Thank You.” It was a clear, crisp indication that she had finished.
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