Public speaking is like wearing killer heels

Delivering a killer presentation is a lot wearing a killer pair of high heels. It takes time to master and getting in enough practice (when nobody is watching) makes you enjoy strutting your goods, for all the right reasons.

As a seasoned speaker and former TV reporter, I have some insight into what makes a speaker shine.

There is a simple rule and if you remember nothing else from my blog, let this stick: speaking and presenting is not about you.

Most people when facing a presentation, whether it be a new business pitch to a potential client, a key note to a conference or a snapshot of their end of year achievements to snare a pay rise, forget this simple fact.

Acknowledging that the audience matters most should also help stem any nervousness as most people only hear 30 pecent of what a speaker is saying in a presentation. We are usually focusing on other random “to do” tasks that come and go, the reactions of rest of the room and maybe even admiring the speaker’s fantastic statement necklace.

Before you even pen your key messages, step back and jot down:

1 – What is your aim? Are you wanting the audience of one or 1000 to become aware, to reinforce key ideas or reassure them. Choose one.

2 – Who is the most important person in the room? You can never appeal to everyone so narrow it down to a target audience – give them an avatar. This maybe be: Eleanor, mid 30s senior HR manager, wants to have better employee engagement in her staff, she is tertiary educated and her hobbies include volunteering at a local women’s shelter, cooking for her friends and marathon running.

3 – Write no more than three key messages (sometimes one is enough, two if you feel you have time to). This should be easy as you know WHY you are speaking, WHO you need to get action from and so WHAT you have to say is now crystal clear.

Nailing down key messages for presenting should always relate to the target audience and be refined for different ones. Make a point, back it up and wrap it up. Each time you do this is chance to pause and “check in” even with some good eye contact on how your ideas, expertise and personal sorties are being received. Silence is powerful to emphasise and not used nearly enough, particular presenter is feeling anxious or even not 100% authentic.

Always take a moment before you start to speak. Stop, take a deep breath, relax your shoulders and focus on a person who seems engaged from the outset. I guarantee it will get you feeling ready to roll. Clear you mind of every other thought but what you are saying. Mindfulness is a great tool for creating focus and clarity. Speaking well and presenting clearly demands it.

I always teach my clients, whether they are CEOs, or start-ups just finding their feet and voice, you know your stuff better than most of the audience you are addressing. Even media who cover your sector whose knowledge is broad but often not deep in a sector or business.

By realising you are adding value to others and enriching their lives can also be a valuable ‘ah-ha’ moment to stand and deliver your presentation with confidence, passion and charm.