You’ve been asked to speak at an upcoming business meeting and have learned that some important people will be in the audience. There is a lot riding on this. And the reality is this presentation could open doors for you, including the exit!
Speaking in public is a natural requirement of most corporate positions. It also is a leading fear for many people. Yet, with a little preparation and practice, you can manage that fear and present like a rock star — delivering for your company, elevating your position and avoiding being shown to the door!
Follow these eight tips and you will surely succeed as a first time corporate speaker:
- Embrace the anxiety. Most people will tell you to relax before giving a public speech. But that’s easier said than done. Public speaking activates your adrenal glands and creates nervous energy. Take a step back and reassure yourself that what you are experiencing is normal.Harness that energy and make it work for you, not against you.Make a conscious decision to use purposeful movements, meaningful gestures, and direct and continuous eye contact.
- Open with a grabber. This is one of the most common tips for the first-time corporate speaker. Don’t start by saying, “My name is ____, and I’m here to talk about …” Someone’s (hopefully) already introduced you and your topic. Your job is to start your presentation with a story, startling statistic, a little known fact — something that will break the ice and engage your audience.
- Fact-example-fact. This is a good way to structure the points of your speech to drive them home. State a fact. Then give an example that illustrates that fact and its implications. Then state the fact again, in a different way.
- Employ visuals. They say a picture’s worth 1,000 words. If you have specific audiovisual elements that can illustrate your point, use them. But be careful with this one. Some think that having a slideshow with their presentation will automatically make it more engaging. In fact, if used poorly, any audiovisual can distract from the overall message. Use slides when they are relevant to what you are saying, maximizing the impact of your message.
- Include soundbites. This is the Twitter age. If people like what you say, they’ll share it with the world, but only if it’s memorable and brief. Format the takeaways of your speech as short but interesting soundbites that encourage people to pass them on.
- Practice, practice, practice. Your speech works on paper, but how does it sound out loud? Practice your speech out loud a minimum of five times before you deliver it. The first three times, you may find yourself editing your speech and honing your content, determining what works and what doesn’t. Once you’ve got your message in shape, it’s time to focus on delivery. Find a small group of colleagues, friends or family members ask for their honest feedback. The better prepared you are, the more confident you will be when you speak at that all-important meeting.
- Have a conversation. Instead of talking at your audience, talk to them. Share with them what you want them to know, why it’s important, and most importantly, “what’s in it for them.” Use a little humor where appropriate. Be authentic and you’re sure to connect with your listeners.
- Be passionate. This is the most important tip: Get excited about the subject you’re speaking about! Your audience will be as engaged as you. When your excitement is genuine, you will convey a “sit up and listen” energy, and your enthusiasm will be contagious.
Whether you’re addressing a room of 10 or a stadium of 10,000, these tips for the first time corporate speaker can help you deliver an engaging and memorable presentation. With a little preparation and practice, you’ll gain confidence and discover that speaking in public an opportunity that can take your career to the next level.
Stephanie Scotti is a strategic communication adviser specializing in high stake presentations. She has 25-plus years experience of coaching experience and eight years teaching presentation skills for Duke University. She has provided presentation coaching to over 3000 individuals in professional practices, Fortune 500 companies, high-level government officials and international business executives. Stephanie holds a bachelor’s in speech communications and education and a master’s in organizational communications and business. Learn more at ProfessionallySpeaking.net and ProfessionallySpeakingBlog.com.