Presentations can be intimidating, especially if you have just got into the game. Whether you use slides or don’t, whether you speak virtually or in person, whether you are an employee or the boss, these 5 tips will help you ace your next presentation in style.
These are some ideas that I have learnt from years of experiment and experience. Buckle up for exciting 900+ words coming your way!
1. Tell a story:
Human beings evolved in hunter-gatherer tribes for millions of years. Every night, these tribes used to sit around fire sharing food and telling stories to each other. In a world without Netflix and Byjus, stories were our primary source of entertainment and education. As a result, human brain evolved to understand stories better than anything.
At a research facility at Princeton University, it was found that our brains react very differently to stories. In a room, some people were made to sit while they shared their personal stories. The results were fascinating! While people were engrossed listening to each other’s stories, parts of their brains lit up as if their brains were in sync. They called it coupling. It showed a deep connection. That’s why storytellers will always have an edge over other speakers.
If you just see, everything around us is inspired by some story – culture, epics, religion, nation, history etc. In fact, we are the stories we tell ourselves.
2. Have a conversation:
I remember, once my school teacher asked me to stand in front of my class and tell an essay. Somehow, I managed to gather my wits and went ahead to speak. By the time I ended it, I knew that I had screwed it up!
From then on, I had an idea that public speaking is a kind of performance, a performance where if you don’t perform, you are doomed.
It was many years later that I found out that Public Speaking is not actually a performance, but a conversation. It is like talking to your friends, family and colleagues. It brought about a huge perspective shift, a shift that has transformed how I speak in Public now. Every time before I get up on stage, I tell myself in my native language, “बस बात ही तोह करनी है |” which translates to, “I just have to talk.”
It is so reliving to know that I don’t have to perform, but just talk. If you can make this one perspective shift and remember that public speaking is not a performance, but a conversation, your presentations will become more interactive and engaging. At the same time, you’ll not have as much performance pressure. You see, public speaking is so much about the mindset.
3. Let go of perfection:
When I started speaking in public initially, I used to write my speeches on paper and tried to deliver them word by word. This is a great practice, but it is very impractical to deliver every speech word by word. There are folks at Toastmasters who would disagree with me, as I have done the same earlier, but let me tell you – trying to deliver every speech word by word makes you a perfectionist over time. Just forget one word or sentence on stage, and all hell breaks loose.
On the other hand, trying to deliver perfect presentations is exactly what stops people from delivering more of them. Any skill is built with practice, by doing it over and over again, so if you spend too much time trying to deliver that one perfect presentation, it would be difficult for you to get enough numbers i.e. more practice in front of different audiences and different subjects.
When you let go of perfection, you become free! This freedom helps you think clearly and speak effectively. Even then if you make mistakes, you won’t beat yourself up and those mistakes won’t hold you back. As a matter of fact, we all screw up sometimes, even public speaking experts. When you give yourself permission to fail, that's when you shine!
4. Speak to express and not to impress:
In the bestseller ‘Shiva Triology’, author Amish Tripathi wrote, “there is your truth and there is my truth. As for the universal truth, it does not exist!”
Public Speaking, I believe, is about speaking your truth – your values, opinions and thoughts. It is all about self-expression, not about making others seeing you as cool.
Often people ask me, “How can I impress others with my speaking skills?”
I ask them, “Why do you wish to impress them at all?”
In the yogic culture, emotion, communication and creativity is related to Vishuddhi chakra (Throat chakra). When your throat chakra has free flowing energy, you will have the courage to speak your truth. When you speak your truth, you speak to express and not to impress. This in turn helps you be authentically confident. When you are authentically confident, impression takes care of itself!
5. Don’t work too hard:
Now you tell me, “But Akshat, how can you be successful at anything without working hard? Apple product launches take up as many as 250 hours of preparation. Best speakers are always prepared and dedicate a lot of time to preparation. One can clearly see that it takes ‘hard work’ to be phenomenal on stage.”
Yes, you’re right, but here is a catch. All of this hard work happens behind the stage, not on the stage.
Working too hard to modulate your voice, use gestures, stage, props can backfire and ruin all the preparation. By all means, work hard, but not so much that rather than looking effortless, your speech looks mechanical. Remember, Public speaking, or speaking your truth, is all about authenticity! Once you have put it the hard work to prepare your speech/presentation, let it all go. Get on the stage and be YOU!
Now is the time that you start preparing for your next presentation. If these tips helped you in anyway, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to comment or DM me. Your acknowledgement will certainly encourage me to write more such articles.
I wish you my very best!
Arise and shine!