Present Better in 3 Steps
Through analyzing my time at toastmasters and my everyday work, I’ve boiled down 3 key levels anyone can work through to improve their presentation abilities tenfold. Learning to present following these guidelines has won me several speaking competitions and resulted in actually getting paid to speak.
Everyone gets nervous when it comes to public speaking. Even if it’s just a little bit, even the best do. Learning to be a good presenter isn’t about not being nervous, it’s about learning how to present despite it. It’s easier than you think. Let me show you.
I could write this in one word.
Practice until you are blue in the face.
People tell you not to rehearse too much, but if you stumble on your words and can barely form coherent sentences, you should rather sound rehearsed than not get your message across.
The best presenters I’ve seen through toastmasters started out practicing all their presentations and then learned how to talk on the fly.
You should certainly not wing presentations that matter. You should be prepared to the point you know at what second you are stopping for a breath.
I use to never practice my presentations because I felt that I was too good. I didn’t need to. Until I had a mentor who showed me otherwise.
I had to give a presentation to my new team at my very first job out of college.
I put together a slide deck and said “done”.
My manager scheduled time to practice it with me, even though I had said:
“It wasn’t necessary.”
He recorded me. Rewatching the recording, I must have said “uhm” 100 times. I talked too fast, I missed the points I wanted to hit. It was embarassing.
He turned to me and said, “How about you go practice and we will try this again.”
I spent two hours locked in a room practicing a presentation for the first time in my life. In that room, I learned the most effective ways to say what I wanted to say. I found points in my presentation that were opportune for jokes. It turned out to be a very fun practice.
The team thought my presentation was great and I was invited to present for other teams across the company.
Too many people think they are good presenters because they can stand up without fear and talk for hours.
Nobody is listening to these people.
Practice teaches you to be concise and clear.
That’s how you master level 1. Practice, practice, memorize your lines.
*Oh, and as a bonus tip, you should record yourself and watch it. Even if it makes you cringe and throw up.*
Level 2 is focusing on sounding natural.
At Level 2, you want to schedule your “uhms”, when to smile, when to look serious, when to step to the left, then the right, etc.
Level 2 is when we put our whole body into it.
The best presenters schedule their filler words to sound more natural.
At level 2, you are fixing the “rehearsed” sound.
You are anticipating audience reactions and leaving room for people to laugh. You are landing jokes and adding stronger facial expressions. This is where you fully immerse yourself.
Level 3: Anticipation & Winging it a Little Bit
Anticipating your audience’s needs is what separates the professionals from the amateurs.
Look around at who ends up in the room listening to you.
What do they want to hear? Adjust accordingly.
I say “winging it a little bit” because if you know you are going to be giving a presentation you should give yourself a little bit of time to get your talking points in order at the very least.
We get so wrapped up in our own heads, we forget we are there to deliver for someone else. We worry about the way we look or we talk too much about ourselves.
We want to “wow” people with our knowledge, but don’t give regard to if they care.
When we present, we are there to deliver to others.
What can you say to add value to the people around you? What do they need?
This goes for more than just speaking:
Fill people’s needs and no one will ever forget you.