An award winner’s advice: 10 tips on making a powerful presentation

Angela Rarieya Photo: Courtesy

Angela Rarieya is a managing partner of UpSkill Afrika, a soft skills solution provider. She is also an executive coach (AoEC), an award winning public speaking guru with Toastmasters International and a customer experience specialist.

She works with individuals and groups to transform them into influencers through impactful communication and service excellence. She speaks to JACQUELINE MAHUGU on how anyone can succeed at public speaking.

Win half the battle with proper preparation

Social research suggests that the fear of public speaking is probably the biggest fear in all of mankind, therefore it is within us. The best way to overcome this is by preparation. It may not entirely get rid of the nerves, but it gives you the confidence to start strong.

The less prepared you are to speak in front of an audience, the more conversations go on in your brain, such as, "I am going to forget my words; I am going to forget this or that slide; or leave out this piece of information." That removes the focus from the delivery and the content.

What is your cause?

Are you speaking as a content matter specialist? As an icon because of a cause that you represent? Are you speaking because you are an industry captain?

This is important because it helps you to pitch correctly. If you are going to speak to an audience of 15-year-olds and maybe you want to talk to them about the hazards of using drugs that is a very different conversation from speaking to doctors about breakthrough technology in surgery.

Therefore, you need to tailor your presentation to your audience. If you are speaking to a general audience, keep it simple. If you use words and jargon that they cannot connect wit, you will lose them because the focus is removed from your message and their minds are stuck at, "What does that word mean?"

The magic of threes

Sometimes we try to say too many things at any given time. You will always have limited time. I have found that you can usually bunch your information into three key points and then from those three key points you can get some sub-points.

It is known and it has been researched that people tend to remember things in strings of three. Those three key things form the framework of your speech. Everything else you add on to that builds a better understanding of the three key things.

Start and end with a bang

You want to begin in a manner that forces your audience to focus their attention on you. You could use a shocking statistic, a short story or anecdote, a quote; and it is very important to acknowledge the source of the quote, a humorous line or a joke. Some people are born with a natural sense of humour but it can be learnt.

Sometimes, we may deliver the humour in a way that falls flat and that is alright. You can make a joke about that, such as by saying, "That was supposed to be a joke." People generally enjoy self-depreciating jokes. When you as a speaker make fun of yourself, it humanises you.

People remember most what they hear last. When you end your message, recap what you talked about in a very quick summary. The recap could be a call to action, a challenge to the audience to do something, a reminder of the greatness that they have but might have forgotten or an invitation to try out something.

Posture speaks volumes

When we are speaking, 55 per cent of the communication we make comes from our body language, 38 per cent from the tone of voice and only 7 per cent from your words.

Slouching, folding your arms across your chest, putting your hands in your pocket – all these things send a message to your audience that you are untidy, nervous or unsure. Stand straight with your shoulders back and with your chin up.

This is not only a posture of confidence, but is also a posture that allows an optimum amount of air to move within your vocal chords and out of your mouth. Stand with your feet slightly apart for balance. Relax. Tense muscles in your body restrict your vocal chords so you might end up sounding too high pitched, squeaky or with words that sound a bit edgy.

Monotone sucks

Your voice is an instrument. If you had to listen to an instrument playing one note for five minutes, you would walk out in protest. Modulate your voice when speaking. Use your vocal range. If you are telling a story that has a sad part, lower your voice when you get to it and slow down your pace.

When talking about actions, get louder and faster. If you are scheduled to speak, take fluids that are at room temperature because cold fluids constrict your vocal chords.

Stay away from milk and dairy products because they stimulate excess phlegm production and your voice may end up sounding thick. Alcohol and caffeine dry out your voice.

Don't apologise

Never apologise to your audience. Do not say things like "Sorry I was not prepared, I have been caught off-guard." That diminishes your credibility in the eyes of the audience.

Honour yourself and honour the opportunity, since you have been asked to speak because it is believed you have something of value within you that can be shared. Also, stay calm.

When there is too much adrenaline in your body, your brain cannot process your thoughts. You can practice some breathing techniques that are not visible, like by counting backwards from 10.

Practice

Some people may be born with a certain predisposition that makes speaking easier for them, but many more people have become powerful, impactful speakers because they put in the legwork, learnt the techniques and took the opportunities to speak.

Everyone has certain mannerisms about the way they speak. Some of them may stand in the way of your communication, such as too much gesturing with your hands, as gestures should mirror what you are saying. Be kind to yourself.

Even great speakers do not always perform at their best.


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