Some people fear public speaking more than death, but with the right preparation, most people can give a compelling presentation. I’ve been doing public speaking for more than two decades. Here are some lessons I’ve learned.
Organize Your Tools
Before you even show up, you need to organize yourself and gather up your support items. This typically includes:
o a 25- to 175-word introduction
o a sign-in sheet for expected guests
o presentation notes
o props, books, magazine articles, etc.
o a clock / timer
o a bell to ring to get people’s attention.
It is important that you prepare these things. I put together a package of all these materials so that they’re ready to go whenever I have a speaking gig.
Set Up the Room Properly
Room setup makes a vast difference in terms of the energy and the impact of your presentation. If you have a large room, it is common for the people who arrive early to sit in the back or middle of the room, as if they’re afraid you’ll be smashing watermelons on stage. But this creates an energy void between you and your audience. For effective communication, you want to get people to sit as close to the front of the room as possible. You can arrange this by taping off back rows with masking tape. This will force people to sit up front.
In terms of your screen setup, it’s best to put the screen in the corner of the front of the room at a 45-degree angle. That allows you to walk back and forth across the entire front of the room without having the projector light shine in your eyes. Also, use a projector that is bright enough that you do not have to turn the lights down. I have watched after-lunch speakers turn the lights down, show a lot of detailed PowerPoint slides, and put the audience to sleep. Keep the lights up.
Put a small table in front of the room to hold your projector, handout materials, evaluations, a clock/timer, and a glass of room temperature water (room temperature because cold water will restrict your vocal cords and make it harder for you to speak).
Typically, for any audience of more than 25 people, you are better off using a wireless Lavaliere microphone. This gives you more control over the audience and saves your voice if you are doing a long workshop. It also guarantees that people with diminished hearing will be able to hear you.
Before you start, assign one person to manage the room temperature and any distractions so that you as the speaker do not have to take care of these things. A number of times during my speaking engagements over last 20 years, alarms have gone off, and it has been very helpful to be able to send someone else out to find out what is going on. Without the designated person, you will end up doing these things yourself.
Right before you start speaking, check your appearance in a well-lighted mirror. Make sure your hair is combed correctly, that you do not have any food around your mouth, and that your clothes look good.