Six Steps to Public Speaking Glory


Image courtesy of Cydcor’s photostream.

It’s 11:00 AM on a Tuesday and you’ve been called into your boss’s office. She starts by explaining that there’s an upcoming company event and that you’ve been identified as a presenter. The good news is that you will be presenting on programs you already manage so you should have a good understanding of the subject matter. The bad news is…well…there isn’t any bad news. Being identified as someone who can present material effectively should be taken as a compliment and an honor. The folks that will be in attendance are coming to learn. Now it’s your job to ensure that they gain an understanding of what you’re trying to say.

Here are a few tips and tricks that I’ve gathered along the way to boost your confidence and help you achieve public speaking glory.

1.    Remember, you’re the expert. You know more about the programs, projects or campaigns than anyone, including your boss. There’s a reason you were identified to present. Now ride that wave of confidence all the way through to the presentation. You’ve likely been intimately involved with this subject matter from inception. Let your confidence shine through. But if you haven’t, pretend. You’ve got to convince yourself that you’re the most knowledgeable person on the topic. Your audience will be able to tell if you haven’t.

2.    Expect questions. And know the answers. If you’re speaking to a crowd of 10 or 100 you have to expect questions. Address this at the start. Do you want it to be open format or should the audience hold questions until the end? I like taking questions throughout the presentation. It shows that you understand the material, and that you’re confident in the product, program or campaign.

3.    Flexibility creates flow. Your slide deck may lead you down one path of conversation but questions or comments from the audience may take you to another place all together. Recognize and evaluate the feedback you’re getting and decide if you need to change the course of the conversation. If the audience shows significant interest in one item you’re presenting specifically, even at the expense of other material, keep on that subject. Be flexible, understanding and charismatic, and authentic. They’ll tell if you’re faking it.

4.    Understand your audience, and plant allies if possible. Are you presenting to sales people, marketing people or an IT crowd? If it’s sales people, what are their levels of sales and states of their businesses? Find the points you want to hit on based on your audience – speak to their businesses specifically! If you feel things might get rocky, don’t be afraid to plant an ally in the crowd. As a peer to the audience, he or she can help to legitimize your presentation by backing your subject matter with first-hand experiences. Oh, and expect troublemakers. There are a few in each crowd that have their own agendas with little regard for yours. Take them in stride by asking to have one-on-one discussions with them after your presentation.

5.    Create an actionable outcome. In the words of Dale Carnegie, “Throw Down a Challenge.” Challenge your audience to take action by enrolling, engaging or participating in whatever it is that you’re presenting. Challenge your audience to do something different, try something new or get more involved. They most likely need a push, so don’t be afraid to ask them to step outside their comfort zones. They’ll probably respond to your challenge. And if they don’t, they may be in the wrong room.

6.    It doesn’t end at the podium. Just as you expect sales people to follow-up with their customers, it’s important that you follow-up with yours. Reach out to your audience a few days after the event to extend a helping hand or to gather their feedback. Sending a survey is one option, or identifying a few individuals and gathering their constructive feedback could help you with your next presentation. Regardless, be sure you know how you did and more importantly what you can improve on.

Related articles:
•    5 Must-Know Public Speaking Tips for Introverts (
•    5 Secrets of Public Speaking From the Best TED Presenters (
•    6 Ways to Control Your Fear of Public Speaking (


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