We recently popped down to the how to: Academy to pick up some excellent advice on public speaking from entrepreneur Chris Anderson. As the Head of TED - the non-profit devoted to spreading ideas - he’s well placed to explain how to deliver a powerful talk in 18 minutes or less (the optimum length for a lecture according to TED).
With the advent of the internet, there has been a renaissance in the ancient art of public speaking. Millions have found their voice online and as an audience, we can hear ideas being shared from the other side of the world.
Public speaking is a crucial skill to master, in your personal and professional life. Most application process now involve a presentation or video interview, and you will find yourself presenting to a roomful of people throughout your career.
Whether you’re a natural in front of an audience or terrified at the thought of speaking in public, ensure you’re presentation literate with Chris’s excellent advice. In a rush? We've summarised his talk into five top tips.
1. It’s all about the idea
The most successful presentations focus on one, coherent idea – something that will change the way your audience thinks, acts and approaches the world.
Your idea should take centre stage, not you. As a speaker, your job is to succesfully share your knowledge with those listening. Think of it this way – you’re offering your audience the gift of an idea and your presentation is the wrapping paper.
2. There’s no formula
There are an infinite number of ways to deliver an excellent presentation. Don’t think of public speaking tips as rules; rather they are tools you can choose to utilitise or ignore.
Here are two key pieces of advice to consider. Firstly, start strong – this may be a bold opening statement or a short anecdote. Make sure you capture your audience’s attention within the first minute and they'll be receptive to you placing your brilliant idea in their mind.
Secondly, talk your way. Whether you speak from a lectern, walk around the stage or sit on a chair – do whatever feels most comfortable to you. Just remember to look at your audience throughout your speech.
3. Be yourself
The quickest way to engage your audience is to show them who you are. Humour and eye contact are effective tools to make yourself relatable to everyone in the room. Vulnerability is equally powerful - we've all made mistakes and opening up to your audience will immediately endear you to them.
Don't be afraid to speak with passion - this will give authenticity to your presentation. If you're sharing an idea you care about, let it shine through.
4. Tell a story
Following a narrative will help you relax into your presentation - it's easier to remember a story rather than a list of facts and therefore you'll speak more naturally.
Storytelling will also help you construct your idea in the audience's mind. They will find it easier to understand when it's explained in context. Use language and concepts they can relate to – this is where metaphors are very effective.
Preparation is key to delivering an awesome presentation. Use your nerves as motivation to rehearse, a lot. Don't wing it, even if you're confident speaking in public.
We can all learn to become good public speakers - it really is a case of practice makes perfect.
And finally, take a deep breath and go for it – we know you can do it!