When it comes to public speaking, I’ve progressed from ‘terrified’ to ‘comfortable’.
Many years of public engagements have assured me that I won’t collapse in front of an audience and I’ve grown to enjoy presenting.
The beginning and the end
Whenever I counsel somebody about public speaking, I have some simple advice to share. For friends and family, including my sons, I urge them to have:
1) a strong opening and
2) a strong finish.
That means a confident hello and introduction, and a clear, definitive ‘thank you’ at the end.
Sounds easy enough, right? However too often, I’ve been in the audience while a speaker opens with a nervous joke about the technology they’re using, points out a mistake that the MC made in the introduction, or forgets to thank the audience for being there. It’s as uncomfortable as wearing itchy socks.
A welcome smile and a simple, warm thank you goes a long way. (But hey, if you’re an expert speaker and you can open with a compelling conundrum, or a sure-fire joke, go for it).
Also, too often, I’ve seen a speaker finish with a whimper.
If you aren’t prepared for your conclusion, your presentation can taper off with a lame shrug, a giggle, or a “So ..that’s all.”
Most often this happens with inexperienced speakers but it can also happen during group speaking sessions or a team introductory session. This leaves an awful last impression, yet can be so easily avoided with eye contact and a clear “thank you”.
Lead your audience firmly through the wrap-up. (Occasionally you might have an MC who is good at that task and if there is a session host, make sure you are both aware of your roles). This is important because an audience likes to know what to do next.
For example, if you are going to have a question session next, you might say “Thank you so much for listening, now, I would welcome any questions.”
If there is no question time, you can give a lengthier thank you “Thank you so much for your time today; I did appreciate the opportunity to be here. And remember my [key point]. My contact details are on the screen if you would like to stay in touch. Thank you”.
The more experienced, confident presenters might get away with a simple pause – followed by an emphatic ‘thank you’, perhaps a bow, or catching a bouquet thrown from the crowd, as has (not) happened to me many times.
Now … I must thank you for reading. I hope you found these two tips useful.
(And as always, I welcome your comments below).