Begin anew today – Most people view the start of a new year as the perfect time to jolt their lives with commitments to new endeavors. Of course, new beginnings are possible every minute of any day. It’s just that January, with its delivery of a new year, seems so right as the time to begin something new. Let the genesis of this year grant you an opportunity to become a better presenter. Say, “In 2014 I’ll improve my speaking and presentation skills by doing (Blank).” Need a suggestion? You can fill in the blank with one of the following six options:
1) Embody the words of Garr Reynolds: Garr Reynolds has three books on presenting. Buy all three. Read all three. Apply his words to your presentations. Garr has a Zen manner of presenting from which most speakers could benefit. Novice presenters will develop better presentation skills faster. Seasoned presenters will learn how to present with less effort.
2) Take a class on acting or improvisation: The ability to “think on your feet” is crucial to presenters. It’s a skill that’s best learned off stage. Find a local theatre or improv group and take lessons. Explore the basic elements of theatre. Learn how to use your voice more effectively. Embrace the theatrical nature of presenting. Practice these skills (Yes, you can practice improvisation.) and you’ll be more competent and capable during future presentations.
Watch your 6 options for better presentation skills.
Become a better speaker in 2014.
3) Accept all public speaking opportunities: Speak more often. Take every chance, big and small, to stand in front of an audience and deliver a message. Be the person who is willing to speak for your company, association, or cause. Actual face-time is the only way to improve your public speaking skills. Use short talks to try something different. Use long presentations, 20 – 40 minutes, to work on one particular skill, e.g., speaking more clearly, having more eye contact with your audience, or using fewer speaker notes.
4) Present naked: Naked presenting is presenting without slides. Too many speakers hide behind their slide deck. They’re afraid to present without brightly lit visuals. Don’t fall into that trap. Leave your slide deck at the office. Create deeper connections with your audience by always facing them, instead of looking at your projected slides.
5) Let the audience evaluate your presentation: Use evaluations cards at every presentation. You’ll quickly learn what your audience really thinks about your presentation skills. Did you start off strong? Was there enough time for Q & A? Did you end with a bang or a whimper? Use a simple evaluation card to find out. Then, make adjustments based on the responses from your audience. Their comments will let you view your presentation from the best judges, your audience.
6) Video your presentations: See the reality of your speaking style. Watching yourself present is the only way to know what you really say and do while in front of an audience. Today’s mobile devices make it easy. Just place your recording device on a stable surface. Let it record as you present. Review your video several times, with sound on and with the sound off. Take notes and zone in on the areas that need improvement.
Now it’s up to you. Some of the options are more daunting than others. Reading Garr Reynolds is easy, but presenting without slides might be more challenging. Great beginnings should take you out of your comfort zone. Be bold. Do something different. The key is to take action. As for timing? Begin something new today. Start now. Make a commitment to improving your presentations skills. Don’t make 2014 just another year. Make it a great year.