Presentations and Public Speaking

For my job I regularly have to talk to large groups of people, give presentations, and guide discussions. You probably couldn’t tell that public speaking is one of the things that I never want to do. I did not seek out a position that required this, but as positions grow and change more and more is expected of you. When I first started doing any kind of public speaking was not successful. My voice got really high pitched. I overcorrected and spoke so slow it wasn’t clear when a thought was ending.

To be clear, I still do not like public speaking. Often my face gets more red than I want to. I say “uh” or “umm” or “so…” throughout. . It is not my main skill though I have learned a couple things along the way. What is your biggest tip for speaking to a crowd?

  1. Don’t practice too much. If you practice ’til word perfect and then get mixed up during, it is incredibly hard to recover naturally.
  2. Keep 1-2 examples for what you are presenting in your back pocket (memorized) and out of your formal presentation. You can either use them as examples if you get questions or if not throw them out as extra examples at the end of the section. This will make you look like a content expert and like you can think on your feet.
  3. Look above eyeline. For virtual presentations for me this is the top edge of my computer. For in person, it may be a back door, the clock on the wall or a window.
  4. Talk at a speed where you can hear what you are stay. Use punctuation to take pauses and breathes. After each major ideas take a break, either to ask for questions or move on.
  5. This is the one I struggle most with: Stop talking once your point is made. Say what you mean to say and nothing more. Answer just the question that was asked. Give a chance for questions or requests for clarifications, but over-explaining can lead to rambling and more confusion than just letting the audience receive the initial point.

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